Lower back injuries are an extremely common injury as a result of sports, overuse, and improper training/lifting technique that stem from weak core and gluteals. Performing strengthening and stretching exercises for your core and glutes on a regular basis will help you stand taller, increase exercise power and strength, improve core strength during everyday movements, and will reduce your risk of lower back injury and strains.
Below are some basic exercises to strengthen core and glutes that can be done at the gym or at home to help improve lower back/core strength. All of these exercises are great 'mat' exercises that can be added to the end of a workout routine as stability/core work or to the beginning of the workout to improve stability and warm up core muscles before complex movements. Alternatively, these exercises can be done at home on a daily basis to help improve strength, prevent injury, and strengthen each side of the body independently for more balanced strength and stability between the left and right limbs.
Glute Bridges with Band - Glute and Core Isometric Exercise
(Perform 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps holding the bridge at the top for 10+ seconds)
- Start lying on your back with both of your feet flat on the ground hip width apart, arms relaxed at your side, and a resistance band tied tightly around your knees (starting position, top picture)
- While keeping your core activated and squeezing your glutes together, spread your knees so they are positioned paralell to your feet, drive your weight through the bottom of your heels, and lift your glutes off of the ground until your back is straight from knees to shoulders (Make sure you are not letting the band pull your knees together)
- While at the top of the movement (hold position, bottom picture) keep your body tight and hold the position for 10+ seconds
- After the hold, slowly lower your glutes back down to the starting position in a slow and controlled manned for maximum muscle activation
- Repeat for 5-10 reps each set. Progress to Level II: Single Leg Bridges once your increase strength past this point.
Single Leg Back Bridges - Isolated Glute and Core Exercise
(Perform 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps each leg holding the bridge for 10+ seconds)
- Start lying on your back with one foot flat on the ground and the other off the ground with hip and knee bent at 90 degrees, and arms relaxed at your side (starting position, top picture)
- While keeping your core activated drive your weight through the bottom of the heel on one leg and lift your glutes off of the ground until your back is straight supported by one leg with the other leg is off the ground at a 90 degree angle at the hip and knee
- While at the top of the movement (hold position, bottom picture) keep your body tight and hold the position for 10+ seconds being sure not to let the hip on either side drop or elevate from paralell
- After the hold, slowly lower back down to the starting position in a slow and controlled manned for maximum muscle activation and repeat 5-10 times in a row on the same side
- Repeat on other leg
Bird Dog - Glute, Core, SI, and Lower Back Stability
(Perform 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps each side holding for 10+ seconds)
- Start the exercise on your hands and knees with neck in neutral, hands below your shoulders (shoulder width apart), and knees below your hips (hip width apart)
- Keeping your core activated and pelvis stable lift your right arm and your left leg off of the ground and extend them directly ahead and behind you. Be sure not to roll into one hip or tilt your pelvis and keep your shoulders locked (do not raise towards your ears)
- Once arms and legs are fully extended hold the position for 10+ seconds
- Return your right arm and left leg to the starting position and repeat for the left arm and right leg
- Repeat 5-10 times each side
These exercise are great to add to your core routine or incorporate into your warm up for core activation and stability before more complex movements. Enjoy!
Evan Ward, BScHK, CPT, Kinesiologist
CEO & Founder, DYNAMIS
Athlete: Julie Dee