Core Muscle Strengthening to help Lower Back Pain


Here are a few exercises that will help strengthen your core muscles and thus support your back.


The Bridge Exercise


Lie on the back, knees bent to 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor. Pull the stomach in slightly (to stabilise the back). Raise the buttocks off the floor and hold for 5 seconds.

Slowly lower the buttocks to the floor. Aim to repeat the exercise 5 times.








bridge_exercise_2To increase the difficulty of this exercise which will require the core muscles to work a lot harder, when the buttocks are raised lift one foot off the floor and straighten the leg.NB. Do not allow the hips (pelvis) to twist. You will need to squeeze the buttocks firmly before the leg lift. Hold for 5 seconds. Lower the leg and repeat with the other leg. This counts as one exercise, aim to repeat 5 times.






The Plank Exercise


Lie face dowm with elbows and forearms on the floor.

Pull stomach in to stabilise the core muscles and lift your body up in a straight line, like a plank so that only the knees, toes and forearms are in contact with the floor.







Hold for 10 seconds keeping the back straight.


If the back starts to arch try tigthening the abdominal muscles a little more. To increase the difficulty of the exercise lift the body off the floor so that only the toes and forearms are in contact with the floor.










The Swimmer Exercise

This exercise targets the buttocks muscle and improves shoulder awareness which will improve posture. There are a few things to check with this exercise :


1. Keep your tail bone tucked in to stop the low back arching as this can strain the low back.

2. If your neck feels strained rest the face on the floor instead of lifting it.

3. When you raise your arms do not let the shoulders lift towards the ears, you may need to bend the elbows.









Starting position :

Lay face down with arms above the head. Pull your shoulder blades down your back to stop the shoulders lifting towards the ears. Tuck chin in and lift head 2 inches. Tuck tail bone in and pull stomach in.









Single Leg Swim

Lift one leg a few inches, the back muscles should not tense. Lower and repeat with other leg. Aim for 8 repititions. The quicker you alternate legs in the air the harder it is.


Single Arm Swim

Lift one arm a few inches off the floor. Remember to bend the elbow if the shoulder moves towards the ear. Lower and repeat on other side. Aim to repeat 8 times


Arm and Leg Swimming

Pull stomach in a little more, keeping shoulders low, lift opposite arm and leg at the same time. Try to change sides with arms and legs in the air. Try to keep alternating reasonably fast for 5 sets of 8. Keep breathing.




The 4 Point Reach

Kneel on all fours. Keep the back level as if it was a table top. Place the hands directly under the shoulders and the knees directly under the hips. Hold the head away from the shoulders, in line with the spine and relax the neck muscles. Pull the stomach muscles in slightly to engage the deep abdominals, (core muscles).

Keep the shoulder blades still and reach one arm forwards still keeping contact with the floor. Don’t allow the back to tilt slowly float the arm up Lower and repeat on the other side.

Initially with both hands on the floor reach one leg out again with the back still level, do not let the back arch. Slowly raise the leg, no higher than the back. Lower and repeat on the opposite leg.

When you are confident with the single limb raises lift one arm till it is shoulder height and simultaneously raise the opposite leg so that the leg back and arm are all aligned. Hold for 5 seconds slowly lower. Repeat on the other side. Remember to breathe normally. Aim to do 5 repetitions.




The above exercises are just some of the many exercises that help to strengthen the core muscles and so protect the back. These and many more where developed by Joseph Pilates in order to treat dancer’s injuries. This means that Pilates will be a safe form of exercise if you have a back injury as the Pilates teacher will know which exercises can be beneficial to you and which you should avoid.

Other factors which are contributing to the back pain will also have to be corrected for the exercise program to be successful. An Osteopath will be able to treat some of these factors, particularly chronic poor posture which places stress on the discs, muscles and ligaments of the back. Again particular exercises will gradually help improve poor posture.