Back Exercises for Rehab and Performance

November 3, 2012 | Mo Skelton

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Just like athletes, back exercises come in all shapes and sizes and have various strengths and weaknesses. Individual techniques are more effective in different rehab phases, but all help with athletic performance.

Don't let the following long list of exercises scare you. They're the best of the best for athlete training. Although some may be challenging, they're not exhaustive. Each exercise will uniquely train the upper- or lower-back muscles so they can function appropriately, leaving you at your best in the weight room and the competitive arena.

Bird Dog in Quadruped

Immediately following a lumbar spine tissue injury (typically a disc tissue), the muscles of the lower lumbar spine are weak and unable to stabilize. That's why people with back injuries often have forward flexed posture. They have to  overcompensate with their abdominals. This exercise is good for rehabilitative stability after an injury, to restore muscle function and teach proper breathing.

Stabilizing in Space

The muscles between each spinal segment, called the multifidi, help control spine position. Effective training for these muscles involves positioning on all fours, as with:

See STACK's Plank Guide for these variations and more.

Overhead Squat

Use a broomstick or a loaded barbell. This exercise helps maintain mobility of the thoracic spine, hips and ankles.

Goblet Squat

Challenges the abdominals and strengthens the hips and low back.

Front Loaded Step-Up

With the front load and the unilateral movement, the obliques are trained as they try to maintain postural stability.

Back Squat

Old school but still one of the best. Loading the spine trains the muscles of the back to do their job of stabilizing a load.

Lunges with Dumbbells

When weight is held at the side, it helps strengthen the postural muscles.

Deadlift

For total body strength but also challenges the lumbar stabilizers.

Lat Pulldowns

Can be performed seated or with one arm at a time while in a lunge position to make it more functional.

Anti-Rotation Exercises

Moves like the Pallof Press train the obliques and the rotators of the low back.

TRX Push-Ups

These work on all the stabilizing structures of the low back, upper back and core.

Single Leg Romanian Deadlift and Single Leg Good Morning

These are especially helpful for training overall balance and strength of the back and hamstrings.

Farmer's Walks

A great way for athletes to develop postural strength, endurance and overall stability.

Kettlebell Swing

Trains the hip hinge, which carries over to other exercises and improves the ability to maintain posture while fatigued.

Pull-Ups

Great to create strength in the secondary stabilizers of the upper back and to train the latissimus dorsi. Pull-Ups have a large fascial base that creates secondary stability in the lumbar area.

Good Morning, Romanian Deadlift, Reverse Hyperextension and Glute Ham Raise

These are all accessory lifts that strengthen the back, core, glutes and hamstrings to improve their ability to maximize all other strength lifts.

Topics: REHAB | BACK
Mo Skelton
- Mo Skelton is a physical therapist at McCurtain Memorial Hospital (Idabel, Okla.) and is the founder of F.A.S.T. Sports Performance. He also serves as...
Mo Skelton
- Mo Skelton is a physical therapist at McCurtain Memorial Hospital (Idabel, Okla.) and is the founder of F.A.S.T. Sports Performance. He also serves as...

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