How To Train Around Low Back Pain

Odds you have either had or known someone to have back pain at some point in your life. It’s a prevalent phenomenon in today’s sedentary culture because of:


  • Lack of Activity
  • Poor Lifting Mechanics
  • Lack of Core Strength
  • Improper Mobility 


These all too common phenomenons can all contribute to that lingering low back pain that you can’t seem to shake off!


Having lower back pain is often viewed as an irreversible condition.


Some people stop working out altogether as a result of this!


To know that lifting – along with proper nutrition – is the key to creating the body of your dreams but not being able to push yourself because your back is acting up can be incredibly frustrating!


I get it, I’ve been there myself.


The truth is you don’t have to stop training all together if you have low back pain – you just need to train smarter!


Here’s how to train around your low back pain and improve symptoms you might experience as a result of this!


**Disclaimer: This is not medical advice nor is it a prescription for your specific condition. If you experience lower back pain consult your primary care physician or physical therapist for proper diagnosis and recommendations. The contents of this blog are just suggestions to help you continue training around your back pain.**


Improve Your Mobility


Believe it or not, your lower back (anatomically referred to as your lumbar spine) is a joint! Except it doesn’t work like most joints should.


Every major joint in your body is meant to either be mobile or stable – as illustrated by the mobility stability continuum below.


As you can see your lumbar spine is meant to be a stable joint. 


However, if the mobile joints surrounding the lumbar spine aren’t as mobile as they should be, your lumbar spine will be forced to work overtime.


Imagine if someone at your job wasn’t doing all the work they were supposed to, you might have to pick up the slack so that the job gets done.


Well, it’s the same idea here.


If your thoracic spine or hips can’t handle the demand you’re putting on it because of a lack of mobility, your lumbar spine has to check-in and do work that it wasn’t meant to do!


Instead of continuing to force your lower back to do a job way above its pay grade – get your hips and thoracic spine mobile again!


Here are a couple of exercises that you can incorporate to your warm-up or morning routine to improve your hip and thoracic spine mobility:


Hip CARs


Shin Boxes


Thoracic Spine CARs


T-Spine RB Rotation


Deload Your Spine


Does barbell back squat give you low back pain? 


A weight lifting belt isn’t going to help solve that problem.


Instead of trying to force exercises that cause you back pain into your program, choose exercises that will deload your spine so that you can alleviate the pressure your lower back faces.


You can find ways to create great mechanical tension on your legs without putting more stress on your back!


You can incorporate machines like hack squats or leg press so that you can still push a reasonably heavy load without being as demanding on your lower back.


Incorporating uni-lateral (single leg) movements also help to provide a strong training stimulus while reducing the amount of load and stress you put onto your spine. Sometimes you just need to give your lower back a break, not to mention that single-leg exercises also have a more functional carry over to everyday life.


 Here are some great uni-lateral exercises I often program for clients that experience low-back pain:


Elevated Reverse Lunge


TRX Assisted Pistol Squat


KB 1/2 Racked Split Squat


Bulgarian Split Squat


Stabilize Your Core


Core strengthening is much more than just doing lots of crunches.


If you want to actually build a strong core that will also stabilize your spine, you need to incorporate less crunching exercise and more anti-movement exercises!


These include anti-extension and anti-lateral flexion exercises.


These exercises are fundamental in helping stabilize your spine under a load, so adding variants of these exercises 2-3x per week to your training program will really help strengthen your body to better handle the load that you are asking of it.


Here are a few of my favorite anti-movement exercises:


Overhead Wall Press Deadbugs


Plank + Alternating Reach


Palloff Press


KB Full Racked Farmer’s Carry


Strengthen Your Posterior Chain


The posterior chain refers to muscle on the backside of your body – I know, mind-blowing stuff.


More specifically, we’ll be referencing your glute and hamstrings here because these are your main joint stabilizing muscles for your spine, hips, and knees.


These are also your main Hip-Hinge muscles, so if they’re not firing properly your lower back will once again be called over to do the dirty work your glutes and hamstrings couldn’t.


Establishing a strong mind-muscle connection with these muscles while strengthening them goes a long way in preserving your lower back health.


Here are some helpful exercises that you can start incorporating to strengthen your glutes and hamstring:

Frog Pumps


BB Elevated Deadlifts


Full+Half Rep Seated Hamstring Curls



By designing a program that works with your injury instead of against it, you can continue to see progress in your lifts without making things worse for yourself.


Applying these principles will not only help you work with your low back pain in the short term but – if implemented properly – help relieve it of the pain entirely over time!


If you’d like help setting up a personalized program that takes all the guesswork out of this for you, click here to schedule a free strategy call with a coach so that we can help get you on the right track to stronger, healthier movement!

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