Back pain stinks. It can be caused by a number of issues, and it can be a literal pain to get rid of. It’s important to address issues, but if you’re careful, you can work around the injury.
For example, in a previous article, I detailed knee-dominant exercises athletes dealing with back pain can use to build lower-body strength while staying pain-free. In this article, I detail methods of hitting the ever-important glutes and hamstrings without aggravating your back.
And I’ll show you some lower-back exercises that can help alleviate long-term issues.
1. Back Extension
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Back Extensions are a fantastic, safe way to strengthen your posterior chain—when performed correctly.
Most people do them wrong by hyperextending through the low back at the top. Then they complain about back pain.
It’s not the exercise, it’s the execution that causes discomfort.
Stop the motion at the top when your head and heels are in a perfect line and squeeze your glutes as hard as possible to minimize stress on your spine.
After body weight becomes too easy, we initially load these with a weight plate held in front of the chest. Later, we move on to a weighted EZ bar or a straight bar held with both arms. You can also loop a resistance band around your neck to provide further resistance.
You don’t want to go super heavy on these, so perform sets in the 8- to-20-rep range.
2. Valslide Leg Curl
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Valslide Leg Curls train the hamstrings both as knee flexors and hip extensors. They’re a great, back-friendly choice for building strong, injury-proof hammies.
You can scale this movement up or down based on your strength level and your ability to maintain a proper position with hips up, glutes tight and ribs down.
Beginners should master the eccentric-only variation before moving on to regular Valslide Leg Curls.
For advanced athletes, the One -Leg Valslide Leg Curl provides plenty of challenge for quite some time, especially when progressing to the band-resisted variation.
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Again, the goal is to make the correct muscles do the work, so keep reps moderate at 6-12 per set.
3. Hip Thrust
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This is another great exercise that hits the glutes and teaches athletes to extend from the hips, not hyperextend through the low back.
Since the goal is not to move the greatest amount of weight—in contrast to a true maximal strength exercise like the Deadlift—you should keep reps moderate and focus on feeling your glutes burn. These are best done for 5 reps and higher.
4. One-Leg Glute Bridge off Bench
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Placing your foot on a bench increases range of motion and provides some awesome glute pumps.
Perform 10-20 reps per set with a one-second hold at the top to maximize glute burn.
Many people find that the bodyweight version of this exercise done for higher reps provides sufficient resistance. However, stronger athletes can use a 10- to 20-pound plate or resistance band to make things more challenging.
5. Romanian Deadlift
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This movement may or may not be suitable depending on your injury history.
However, I’ve noticed that most athletes who cannot pull a straight bar off the floor can perform Romanian Deadlifts—as long as they’re capable of maintaining a neutral spine and focus on feeling the movement in the hamstrings and glutes.
You want to feel a good stretch in the hamstrings on the eccentric and finish each rep by squeezing the glutes hard instead of just moving the load up and down. Stick to reps at and above 5.