The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need On Core Strengthening Exercises: Back Pain Killer

//The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need On Core Strengthening Exercises: Back Pain Killer

The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need On Core Strengthening Exercises: Back Pain Killer

Are you struggling with back pain from time to time? Maybe with radiation, maybe without. It could radiate from your lower back to your glutes or in your legs.

Or maybe you just want to build up a strong core to do great exercises. After all the core is the foundation of everything. In this guide I will show you the perfect core strengthening exercises – back pain will be history soon.

You might be feeling:Core Strengthening Exercises Back Pain

  • A stiff back
  • Soreness lower back region
  • Burning/annoying pain that never really goes away
  • Pain that sometime is worse than other times and you don’t know why

If that is you, most likely you have a weak core. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have weak abdominals. Your core is more than that.

You core exists out of:

  • Lower back
  • Abdominals (Rectus abdominus and your oblique’s)
  • Glute muscles
  • Intrinsic muscles that stabilize your spine (transverse abdominus and multifidus)

The last one is often overlooked. Maybe you have never heard of them before. Though these are the most important muscles you need to activate in order to get rid of your back pain. This guide will discuss how to activate the muscles the right way and give you core strengthening exercises for back pain. This is what I use most in my practice as a physiotherapist.

So you want to feel pain free again or you just want an iron core. You need a basic structure. A foundation to build upon.

Imagine building a house. If the ground on which the house is build is not completely straight but crooked but you do build the house on it anyway, that’s not going to be good. Imagine what happens over time. Same goes with your core. You need the right muscle activation to stabilize your back. I’m referring to your internal core muscles (transverse abdominus and multifidus). Then you need them to work together with the outer muscles, like the lower back (quadratus lumborum and the erector spinae), obliques and rectus abdominus (abdominals).

When the foundation is solid (inner core muscles), you can safely build up your core and it will last. Chances of getting low back pain decrease or the intensity you experience might decrease.

What often happens if you have back pain because your global muscles compensate for your intrinsic muscles. Because the intrinsic muscles are not activated properly and lack strength, the outer muscles take over.

The intrinsic muscles have a much higher endurance than your outer muscles
and are basically build to stabilizer core-strengthening-exercises-back-painyour spine. Your spine needs stabilization. If the intrinsic muscles do not work properly, as smart as your body is, it will find out another way. It does this by letting the outer muscles stabilize your spine. The outer muscles are built for movement. Of course they have a secondary function of stabilizing your spine, but mostly they are their so you can do movements, like bending and extending your back.

When these muscles take over the function of the intrinsic muscles, they fatigue very quickly because they are not built to stabilizer your spine. They do not have an endurance like the intrinsic muscles. So they get overused.  This causes pain and you enter a vicious circle.

The Solution

If you don’t have back pain and you just want a good core, the same principles apply. If you master this, you are ahead of 98% of the competition. Just look around in your gym where they do exercises that involves your core (which is basically all movements). They lack the proper core strength and proper muscle activation and sooner or later they might hurt themselvers.

So what are the advantages of a good, solid core?

  • Rarely experience back pain ever again
  • Get instantly stronger in most exercises
  • Get solid six pack abs (if you have low body fat)

Basically safe yourself a lot of trouble and experience some nice benefits. It only costs a little bit of effort. But if you ask me it’s more than worth it.

Core Basics

Make sure to consult your physical therapist first before attempting these exercises.

An easy test to see if you have some activation at all is the pelvic tilt. This means the ability to tilt your pelvic forward and backward (which primarily is done by the inner core muscles).

Lay on the floor or on a mat and see if you can flatten your lower back flat to the ground by compressing your abdominals slightly, like the following picture:

Core Strengthening-Exercises-Back-Pain

Try to slide your hand underneath your lower back. This should not be possible. If you can somehow slide your hand underneath your back, you know you are not activating the proper core muscles, like this picture:

Core Strengthening-Exercises-Back-Pain

My hand is able to slide underneath and as you can see I have an arch in my lower back.
Note: (A lot of people can’t do this simple exercise).

So now you know how the pelvic tilt works it’s time to put it into practice.

Core Strengthening Exercises

  • Back extension (not like you know it, see detailed description below)
  • Seated row
  • Oblique machine/Rotation machine
  • Dumbbell side bends
  • Ab crunches on Bosu with ball

If you understand these exercises and you do them consistently for about 4 – 6 weeks, you will notice a huge difference.

The exercises the way I’m going to explain them to you allow you to gain back control over your intrinsic core muscles and let them work together with your outer muscles. This is what you want. Your central nervous system needs to adjust to this pattern and this takes some time. Also because this is strength training, it takes at least 4 weeks before you notice a significant difference.
Generally, before the first effects of strength training kick in is after about 4 weeks.

  1. Back extension

You are going to perform this exercise not the way you know it. You probably are used to just bouncing back and forth. Though not this time.

Start out in the basic beginning position with your hands crossed across your shoulders:


Now you start to slowly move down, but you start from the top of your vertebra (the neck), rolling vertebra after vertebra, all the way down to the last vertebra in your lower back. Start with your neck first, chin on your chest


Now your shoulders. Protract your shoulders (push them forward so you hollow your upper back)


Pull your belly in and bend your lower back all the way down


Go back up and start at the lower back. Maintain the hollow position you are in and roll up vertebra after vertebra. Lower back first, pull your shoulders backward second and after that your neck. Don’t over extend your neck at the end but go back to a neutral position.

Try to build up to 3 sets of 12 repetitions. Control the exercise.

  1. Seated Row

Don’t focus on the weight, but instead focus on your posture. Sit up as straight as you can with a natural spine position. For your feeling you must over- exaggerate. This will feel weird at first because you are not used to it.

Now throughout the movement you maintain this position without moving forward or backward. No change in posture should occur. Pull the weight towards you and back again:



3 sets of 12 repetitions. Don’t set the weight too low, but set it at a weight so you can maintain a steady core and so there is no need to compensate by getting momentum from your lower back.

  1. Oblique Machine

On this one you are going to sit up straight just like the back row machine.

With this exercise you target mainly your oblique’s (side abs). By having a straight posture during the whole exercise you force your central nervous system to let your oblique’s and intrinsic muscles work together. Which is what you want. 3 sets of 12 reps each side. Don’t grab a weight that’s too heavy. This is not about strength, it’s about the right muscle activation.


  1. Dumbbell Side Bends

Grab a weight not too heavy, stand up straight. Ideally in front of a mirror so you can see your performance and do it the right way. Then hold the weight in your right arm first and bend the right way. Don’t let your arm fall forward or backward. This causes a rotation in your lower back which is not what you want. Let the dumbbell move down your leg up until the height of your knee approximately.

Move back up straight and repeat both sides 12 x for 3 sets.



  1. Ab Crunches on Bosu with ball

Grab a ball or a Bosu ball and lay on it with your lower back.

Throw the ball in a trampoline or to someone else helping you, and catch it above your head. Go backward and all the way until you almost touch the ground. Almost, but not fully. This is a great exercise for isolating your abdominals.



Try playing with the weight of the ball you throw and ideally aim for 15 repetitions for 3 sets.

If you don’t have access to a trampoline or you can’t do it with someone else, you can throw it against the wall and catch it or hold the ball and go back and forth.

These complaints are very common and often times a weak core is a huge part of the problem. If you master this, let’s say after about 6 weeks, you should be experiencing some great results.

Also if you want to use this for sports, it’s a good way to start. If you are into the body weight training a good core is essential. Especially if you want to advance in bodyweight exercises and do some dragon flies, the planche, human flag, back lever, etc. A solid core is a must.

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By | 2019-08-15T18:14:59+00:00 February 10th, 2016|Blog, Training|15 Comments

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  1. Paul February 10, 2016 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    Thanks Maurice for the great read on back pain problems and core-strengthening exercises. I’m a young guy in my 20s and I’d say that overall my back has been good to me, although I occasionally have problems mostly stemming from bad sitting positions and questionable posture. I do calisthenics and my core is one of the only things I don’t target specifically (including my abs). I’m definitely going to look into the exercises you have here. Can the back extension be done without the piece of equipment shown in your image?

    • Maurice February 10, 2016 at 3:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks Paul, great to hear you are into this as well. If you are doing calisthenics than your core needs to be one of iron. This is a great way to start. The back extension you can also do from a couch or table, though you need some help or some kind of resistance. If you can stabilize your feet on something so you can safely go down and back up, then yeah this would work too.

  2. Ilyssa February 10, 2016 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    I love this helpful post. I have always heard about the need for strength in the core. This post walks me through exactly why this is important and how to strengthen my core. I love the photos too, which allow me to see what it is I need to do and how to do it. I KNOW I need to strengthen my core and I appreciate a guide on how to do so!

    • Maurice February 10, 2016 at 3:31 pm - Reply

      Great to hear it helped you out. Are you struggling with back pain yourself or just with a weak core? Let me know how it worked out for you

  3. Rod February 10, 2016 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    The first sentence smacked me in the face. I have been suffering with lower back pain for almost 15 years. Tore a muscle then, moving an old roll top desk. These exercises look uncomplicated and I will definitely be coming back often to see what else I can add to what you have already shown me today. At 64, I thought I was just going to have to suffer with this, and had given up thinking there was anything I could do about it – other than pain pills.. didn’t want that. Glad I found this. Please keep up the good work.

    • Maurice February 10, 2016 at 4:22 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rod. Sad to hear you’ve been struggling with back pain for that long already. What have you done about it so far? Do you know what it is?

  4. Dave February 10, 2016 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    Hi Maurice,

    I’ve had chronic back pain for years. Seems every time I make progress in the gym or in sport training, I injure my back. One step forward and two steps back.

    I am unfamiliar with the bosu and back extension exercises (at least this version). But, I will definitely try your routine.


    • Maurice February 10, 2016 at 4:21 pm - Reply

      Cheers Dave Hope it helps you out. Let me know what you think

  5. Bradyn February 10, 2016 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    Hello Maurice,

    I’m a young 17 year old who plays hockey, curling, football, and track. I don’t experience back pain very often. But I am interested in developing a strong core. Your exercises seem great and I will surely try them out. This spring, I want to create a workout routine and I will surely add these exercises to the list. I also have your site bookmarked so I can find more exercises to do in the future.


    • Maurice February 11, 2016 at 9:58 am - Reply

      Hey Brad, this works perfect if you are a hockey player. Perfect way to start out and build towards more specific exercises in regard to your sport

  6. Farshid February 10, 2016 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    Wow, great article for building your core and getting rid of back pain. I do have a lot of pain in my shoulders and neck. It’s more than likely due to bad posture and siting at my desk for 9 to 10 hours a day. And possibly weak core! I do planks in my exercise routine. I wasn’t aware of the pelvic tilt. How can I do the back extension at home without the exercise equipment shown in the picture for the back extension exercise? I will definitely integrate Dumbbell Side Bend into my work out routine. Thank you for clear and easy to follow instructions.

    • Maurice February 11, 2016 at 9:59 am - Reply

      That’s a common problem indeed. Back extensions you can either do on the ground: lay on a mat and lift your chest from the ground with your hands next to your head. Or if you have someone to spot you, he/she can hold your legs while you extend from a couch or a table. That way you can also perform the exercise but it’s much harder since you fight against more gravity.

  7. Hari S Nair February 10, 2016 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    Hi Maurice,

    Your post reached to me at the right time I have been having back pain from about 4 years but it is troubling me a lot recently, I would put myself in the forth category that you have mentioned.

    With my job being the one that makes me to sit in front of my laptop and work on my site this pain is just getting worse.

    Your post has really gave me a better understanding of what might be happening there which is creating this pain. I have bookmarked your site and I will definitely do the exercises that you have suggested but I am not going to gym right now can you please suggest me an exercise that I can do at home? and if you can suggest me some real good exercises to reduce tummy also than that would be awesome. Thank You!

    • Maurice February 11, 2016 at 10:02 am - Reply

      Hey Hari.
      Will create a post on that soon.
      Some of the exercises you could do at home are:
      Planking, bridging, supermans, back extensions.

      In regard to your stomach: Any exercises are good in the beginning as long as you focus on the intake of your food. 80% depends on your food intake if you want to lose or gain weight. I recommend focussing on strength when you do exercises. You do this by progressing certain exercises like push ups to more advanced versions, like elevated feet push ups.

  8. Market Merchant February 14, 2016 at 3:41 am - Reply

    Really like the information that you have here. I suffer from back pain and my wife has back pain from her desk job as a customer care rep. I think these exercise could definitely help strengthen our backs and not have as much pain. I also like how you provided photos on here to help show us the exercises instead of just writing about what we need to do!

    Thank you for your time!
    Online Job Market Secrets
    Owner, Zach Campbell MM+

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