Start getting LOW.
The lower back might just be the most important muscle you’re not hitting. Not only is a vacuum tight, lean, impenetrable lower back incredibly aesthetic — it looks stellar on the beach, in a backless wedding dress, or as the perfect runway for a perky butt — it’s critical for full-body strength, pain management, and pristine posture.
Our sedentary-as-hell, sitting culture has created a beast of a lower back pain epidemic. 31 million Americans currently experience lower back pain, with 80% of the population expected to have a back problem at some point. It’s so incredibly bad, that the ACA deemed lower back pain the #1 current cause of disability worldwide.
Prioritize it. You’ll thank me in a few years.
Muscular imbalances and a Styrofoam lower back WILL absolutely wreak havoc on the body and cause it to degenerate over time. It’s literally a huge pain in the ass, and it nags chronically once the dominos start falling. As if we don’t talk about the abs enough, you have to integrate core and lower back strength directly into your training — especially given that certain types of ab training can aggravate lower back pain, if your form is horrible or you’re prone to injury.
Amongst a circuit of miscellaneous muscles, the lower back is primarily made up of a 3-piece group called the erector spinae. In really lean people, the ES often manifests itself as a glorious set of Doric columns, running up and down along either side of the spine. As a major component of the core, the lower back functions to anchor and stabilize the body, and transfers power through the torso. It dominates during anything that forces you to A) bend or extend at the waist or B) support weight overhead — think bent-over barbell rows, deadlifts, or a standing shoulder press.
And if you’re slouching and bleeding inches, weak on compound lifts, or in some degree of back pain, strengthening your lower back is overwhelmingly likely to improve all 3 at once.
To get you there, we’ve compiled 14 of the best lower back exercises to strengthen the erector spinae and surrounding core muscles. Regardless of where you train, we’ve got you covered — exercises include everything from gym-based barbells, dumbbells, and cable movements, to do-anywhere varieties that use resistance bands and bodyweight. Sprinkle a few into your ab routine or back workout, or combine your favorites into a lower back blasting gauntlet.
The 14 Best Exercises To Build A Vacuum Tight, Lean, Impenetrable Lower Back
Lower Back Exercise 1: Barbell Deadlifts
Barbell deadlifts reign king and have to be baked into every workout schedule. Use light weight as you’re learning the form and gradually work your way up over time.
- (1) Stand over a loaded barbell, squat down and sit back into your hips, and place your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. That’s your starting position.
- (2) Keep your back flat and powerfully ascend upward. Initiate the movement by pushing through your butt and heels, squeeze your lower back, and fluidly raise the bar until you’re standing tall.
- (3) While maintaining a tight core, bend your knees, sit down into your hips, and slowly lower the barbell back down to the floor. Keep your back straight and don’t arch.
To put additional emphasis on the lower back, pause each rep for 1 second when your torso is at roughly 60º. You can use dumbbells or kettlebells to deadlift as well.
Lower Back Exercise 2: Resistance Band Deadlifts
The form is exactly the same as a regular deadlift, except that you’ll thread resistance bands underneath the front of your feet. This is a great variation if you’re on-the-go or don’t have access to a barbell or dumbbells.
Adjust the tension to fit your own level of strength. Move through each rep slowly to increase the pressure on your core and lower back.