How to Train Your Lower Back Muscles: Exercises & Workout

Your lower back muscles sit in and around your lumbar region. They are at the center of much of your movements and make your lower back both strong and flexible.

In this article, you will learn about your lower back muscle anatomy, what some effective lower back exercises are, and how you can combine them into a workout.

For a complete training guide of all your back muscles, check out: How to Train Your Back Muscles.

Lower Back Muscle Anatomy

The largest muscles in your lower back are your erector spinae and multifidus. Both of these muscles run along the entire length of your spine, but they are at their thickest in your lumbar region. Other notable muscles of your lower back are your quadratus lumborum and serratus posterior inferior.

Lower back muscle anatomy
Deep back muscle anatomy

In addition to the larger muscles mentioned above, you also have small muscles spanning between your vertebraes, called interspinales and rotatores.

Together, the muscles of your lower back are responsible for stabilizing, extending, and rotating your spine. They are used extensively in your everyday life, as well as in sports and lifting.

Lower Back Exercises

In this section, we’ll take a look at three different lower back exercises. If you train one or two of these exercises, that’s all you need for a good lower back workout.

1. The Deadlift

Deadlift exercise

The deadlift might be the single most functional (in the broad sense of the word) exercise, and all-around best developer of back muscles that you can do in a gym.

The deadlift trains your lower back muscles, but also your gluteshamstrings, trapezius, and quads.

But isn’t the deadlift dangerous for your lower back? Many people are scared of this exercise, believing that it would do them more harm than good. This fear is largely unwarranted. Trained intelligently and in a disciplined, gradual progression, the deadlift can be used to build a very robust and resilient back, while simultaneously developing whole-body strength. In fact, the deadlift is even effective for relieving and treating pain in patients with low-back pain.1

You can read a lot more about deadlift training in our massive guide: How to Deadlift: Technique, Training, and Gaining.

Possible substitutes:

2. Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is another hip hinge exercise, but it differs from the deadlift in several ways. First, it lends itself better to lighter weights and higher reps. Secondly, the movement is a lot faster, which trains your ability to tense and relax your back and core muscles.

In addition to developing the lower back and glute muscles, I have personally found the kettlebell swing to be an excellent exercise for keeping my lower back feeling smooth and pain-free. The swing has been my panacea for various low back ailments, and several others have had a similar experience. As always, the key to all successful training is that you increase the training load and volume gradually, starting off at a level that you can handle without problems.

Possible substitutes:

3. Back Extension

Back extension exercise

Finally, the back extension is as close to an isolation exercise for your lower back muscles that you will get. This exercise allows you to focus your attention on your working muscles, and you can train it both without or with extra weight, like in the demonstration above. You can even unload the exercise some, by placing a chair or something similar close enough to rest your hands on it, and push yourself up.

Possible substitutes:

  • Jefferson Curl
  • Machine Back Extension

Lower Back Workout

So what does a good lower back workout look like?

In our guide on How to train your back muscles, you can find an example of a comprehensive back workout that trains all your major back muscles – including your lower back. If you are looking for a complete back workout, I suggest you check that out. That back workout is also available for free in our workout app StrengthLog.

However, if you’re still interested in what a specific lower back workout could look like, here’s an example.

StrengthLog’s Lower Back Workout

  1. Deadlift: 3 sets x 5 reps
  2. Kettlebell Swing: 3 sets x 20 reps
  3. Back Extension: 3 sets x 12 reps

Together, these exercises will train your lower back muscles very well. You are working in slightly different angles and resistance curves, which increases the chance that all your muscle fibers are covered. By combining different rep ranges and speed (from low to high) it is also possible that you stimulate muscle growth via more mechanisms, and improve a wider range of functions.

If you train these exercises with a good technique, and regularly try to increase the weight you are using while still maintaining good form, your lower back muscles are bound to grow bigger, stronger, and more robust.

Wrapping Up

And that’s it! Hopefully, by now you have a good grasp of your lower back muscle anatomy, what some effective lower back exercises are, and how you can combine them into a workout.

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Do you want to read more of our muscle group training guides? You find them all here.

References

  1. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2015 Feb;45(2):77-85, B1-4. Individualized low-load motor control exercises and education versus a high-load lifting exercise and education to improve activity, pain intensity, and physical performance in patients with low back pain: a randomized controlled trial.