How to Train Around Low Back Pain

I see a client as our session is about to start, they tell me they drove 500 miles in the last 2 days while working their sales job and that their low back is stiff. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that. If you have low back pain, you’re definitely not alone. It’s estimated that 80% of the population will experience low back pain at some point. There are loads of statistics about LBP, you can read them here at the ACA’s (American Chiropractic Association) website.

Now what do you do if you are experiencing LBP? That answer depends and should be determined by a doctor or chiropractor, but for the occasional minor LBP, you can usually train around the pain as long as there isn’t something major going on. In my 10 years of experience training people, I’ve found 3 exercises that people usually can do without any discomfort at all while experiencing minor low back pain.

***Of course I am not suggesting this as treatment for any injury, and if you have a hunch that you have something not so minor going on, use common sense and get it checked out!***

  1.  Bird Dog

The setup starts with your knees and hands. Your hands should be shoulder width apart, directly under your shoulders. Your knees should be hip width apart, and directly under your hips. Reach with your arm and opposite leg, as if reaching for opposite walls of the room. Don’t try to go high with your arm or leg, the goal is to minimize any shift from a neutral spine. Another mistake I see is people will just hang on their shoulder that is connected to the ground, make sure to push up through that shoulder. Try holding each rep for 5 seconds. Do 5 reps on one side, then repeat on the other side.


2. Modified Side Plank

The setup for this one starts with your elbow directly under your shoulder. Your bottom knee should be bent to 90 degrees, then you will execute the exercise by pressing into the ground, holding firm at the shoulder. Don’t just hang on your shoulder. The rest of your body should be a straight line from your ears, shoulders, hips, and knees. Try holding for 15 seconds. If you can do 30 seconds or more, try a side plank from the feet instead of with a knee down. You should feel every muscle along your side from your shoulder to your hip. If you want to take it a step further, take a big inhale, then try exhaling for 10 seconds.


3. Glute Bridge

The general setup is to lay on your back with your knees bent. Then brace your core / draw-in your belly button without changing the shape of your low back, and press your hips up as high as you can without hyperextending from the low back. You want full range of motion from just hip extension. There is some variation to this one for some people to feel it right. You may try moving your feel closer to your hips, further from your hips, wide stance, or narrow stance, some people feel it better if they pull their toes up and only push with their heels. Everyone’s hips are not the same, so you might have to experiment. The key is GLUTE bridge. If you don’t feel it in your glutes, you’re doing it wrong. Try holding each rep for 5 seconds at the top, try 5-10 reps.


Try these out, let me know what you think!

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