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14 daily back exercises

A lady sitting on a yoga matt, in her house and holding her back.

Backaches and pains aren’t fun. Not only are they uncomfortable and painful, stop you from sleeping or standing or sitting down properly, but backache can plague you for days, weeks and months on end.

Fortunately, it is possible to do something about back problems – back workouts. There are lots of different back workouts you can do, and while they may be called ‘workouts’ you don’t have to hit the gym to do them, you can do most of them at home.

Back workouts are aimed at strengthening the muscles in your back (of which there are 401), prevent injuries from occurring and make sure your back works in sync with the rest of your body.2

What causes back problems?

Back pain and back problems can be caused by what’s known as ‘non-specific’ reasons. I.e. there’s no obvious issue. They can also be caused by ‘mechanical’ issues, e.g. joint, bone or soft tissue pain.3

Most of the time, this type of back pain tends to:

  • Improve or get worse, depending on whether you are lying down or sitting up
  • Get worse when you move
  • Happen gradually or come on suddenly
  • Be caused by poor posture or lifting something awkwardly (for more on improving your posture read, ‘5 daily posture exercises.’)
  • Get better after a few weeks

What are the best exercises for backs?

Sometimes, the most simple back strengthening exercises are just what it takes to make things feel better, or well on there way to feeling better again. Please be sure to consult a doctor if you experience back pain.

Overall Back Exercises

1. Single arm kettlebell row

Bend your body at your hips until your torso is at a roughly 45° angle to the floor.

  1. Keep your back flat and your shoulder blades squeezed, engaging your legs to form a strong foundation.
  2. Row a kettlebell up past your ribs, keeping your elbow close to your body.
  3. Do 3 sets, 8 reps per arm.4

2. Renegade row

1. Get into an elevated press-up position with your hands holding dumbbells.

2. Tilt your pelvis forwards and switch on your glutes to hold a rock-solid plank as you row one dumbbell up past your hips.

3. Repeat on each side, making sure there’s minimal or no movement in your body.

4. Do 3 sets, 6 reps per arm. (5)

 3. Push ups

  1. Get on all fours.
  2. Place your hands shoulder-width apart directly under your shoulders.
  3. Bend your elbows slightly. Extend your legs and rest the balls of your feet against the floor.
  4. Engage your core and make sure your body forms a straight line from your head to your feet. Pull your shoulder blades in and down.
  5. Then lower your upper body and your hips simultaneously.
  6. Make sure to engage your core through the whole movement.
  7. Keep your elbows tucked in tight close to your body and inhale as you lower down and exhale as you push up.6

4. Low Plank

  1. Lie down on your stomach.
  2. Bend your elbows directly under your shoulders and place your forearms on the floor.
  3. Extend your legs and rest the balls of your feet on the floor.
  4. Lift your hips and thighs off the floor until your body is parallel to the floor.
  5. Engage your core and make sure your body forms a straight line from your head to your feet.
  6. Tuck your pelvis under to ensure a flat back. Don’t let your lower back (lumbar region) sag or lift.
  7. Pull your shoulder blades in and down. (7)

5. High Plank

  1. Get on all fours.
  2. Place your hands shoulder-width apart directly under your shoulders.
  3. Keep your elbows slightly bent.

4. Extend your legs and rest the balls of your feet against the floor. Your body should be diagonal to the floor.

5. .Engage your core and make sure that your body forms a straight line from your head to your feet.

6. Tuck your pelvis under and make sure your back is flat. Don’t let your lower back (lumbar region) sag or lift.

7. Pull your shoulder blades in and down.8

Upper back exercises9

6. Neck bend and rotation

  1. Stand or sit facing forward, and begin by tilting your neck to the right. You should feel the stretch through your neck to your trap muscle.
  2. After about 10 seconds, slowly roll your head in a counter clockwise direction. Pause for 10 seconds the moment you reach your left shoulder.
  3. Complete the rotation by ending where you started. Repeat these steps rolling in a clockwise direction.
  4. Repeat this sequence 2 to 3 times.

7. Shoulder roll

  1. Stand with your arms down at your sides.
  2. Roll your shoulders backward in a circular motion, completing 5 rotations. Then complete 5 rotations forward.
  3. Repeat this sequence 2 to 3 times.

8. Overhead arm reach

  1. Sit in a chair, facing forward with your feet on the ground.
  2. Extend your right arm up above your head and reach to the left. Bend your torso until you feel the stretch in your right lat and shoulder.
  3. Return to start. Repeat 5 times, then do the same thing with your left arm

9. Cat cow

  1. Start on all fours with your neck neutral.
  2. Your palms should be positioned directly under your shoulders, and your knees should be directly under your hips.
  3. On your next inhale, tuck your pelvis and round out your mid back. Draw your navel toward your spine and drop your head to relax your neck.
  4. After 3 to 5 seconds, exhale, and return to a neutral spine position.
  5. Then turn your face toward the sky, allowing your back to sink toward the floor. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds.
  6. Repeat this sequence 5 times.

10. Child’s pose

This pose helps to stretch the upper back. 

  1. Start on the ground on all fours.
  2. With your big toes touching, spread your knees as far apart as they’ll go and sit your bottom back on to your feet.
  3. Sit straight up with your arms extended above your head.
  4. On your next exhale, hinge at the waist and drop your upper body forward between your legs.
  5. Allow your forehead to touch the floor, your shoulders to spread, and your butt to sink back.
  6. Hold for at least 15 seconds.

For more insight on upper back pain read, ‘Possible causes of pain in your upper back.’

Lower back exercises

These exercises are designed to strengthen the lower back by working areas, including your  gluteus maximus (buttock muscles), hips and rectus abdominus and transverse abdominis muscles.10

11. Bridges

  1. Also known as the glute-bridge hold, this exercise is great for strengthening the lower back and surrounding muscles. 
  1. Lie on the ground with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  2. With your hands down by your sides, press your feet into the floor as you slowly lift your buttocks off the ground until your body is in one straight line. Keep your shoulders on the floor. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
  3. Lower down.
  4. Repeat 15 times.
  5. Perform 3 sets. Rest for one minute between each set.

12. Lying down lateral leg raises

  1. Lie on one side, keeping your lower leg slightly bent on the ground.
  2. Engage your core by drawing your belly button in towards your spine.
  3. Raise your top leg without moving the rest of your body.
  4. Hold for 2 seconds at the top. Repeat 10 times.
  5. Repeat on other side. Perform 3 sets on each side

13. Supermans

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms extended out in front of you and your legs long.
  2. Lift your hands and feet off the ground approximately 6 inches, or until you feel a contraction in your lower back.
  3. Engage your core muscles by slightly lifting your belly button off the floor. Reach away with your hands and feet. Be sure to look at the floor during this exercise to avoid neck strain.
  4. Hold for 2 seconds.
  5. Return to starting position. Repeat 10 times,

14. Partial curls

  1. Lie on the ground with your feet flat on the floor, keeping your knees bent.
  2. Cross your hands over your chest.
  3. Take a deep breath. While you exhale, brace your abdominals by pulling your belly button in toward your spine.
  4. Slowly lift your shoulders off the ground a few inches. Try to keep your neck in line with your spine instead of rounding, to avoid pulling up with your neck.
  5. Return to starting position.
  6. Repeat 10 times. Perform 3 sets.

Which vitamins, supplements and food is good for back health?

Back pain and back problems can impact us all at any age and at any time. Doing simple back exercises and back stretches, is a really good habit to get into and can be relatively easy to do if you select back workouts that you can do at home and at your own pace, like the ones listed above. However, please be sure to consult a doctor if you experience any back pain.

In the meantime, for more practical advice on back pain read, ‘Back pain: What you need to know.’

Last Updated: 18th January 2021

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