If you have lower back pain, you may want to avoid these 9 exercises.

You hear training your abs and performing core-specific exercises can make your back stronger and making it less prone to back injuries.

You also hear you need to strengthen your butt muscles because they support and protect your spine.

What no one is telling you is, if you already have a stiff, tight lower back that aches a lot.

And some of the most popular recommended exercises for lower back pain relief or lower back pain exercises that supposedly strengthen your core and back can actually make your back worse.

Below is a list of 9 exercises you should completely avoid if you have back pain.

Read Next: 6 Best Lower Back Exercises to Relieve Back Pain

1. Sit-ups

Although you might think sit-ups can strengthen your core and tone abdominal muscles, most people tend to use muscles in the hips when doing sit-ups.

Sit up may also put a lot of pressure on the discs in your spine. 

Instead, do crunches. Crunches place less pressure on the lower back and pose less risk for those with back pain. 

2. Double Leg lifts

Leg lifts are sometimes suggested as an ab workout to strengthen the core and tone the abs.

Exercising to restore strength to your lower back can be very helpful in relieving pain, yet lifting both legs together while lying on your back is very demanding on your core.

A lot of women are bottom-heavy, meaning that they don’t have enough core strength to protect their spine while lifting both legs off the ground. Put simply, this exercise is not worth the risk. 

3. Back squats

 The squat is another one of those terrific all-in-one moves when done correctly. It works all the muscles of your lower body and the core. But when done with poor form, it’s an easy way to end up with more pain. 

The most common mistake people make when squatting is rounding their lower back instead of keeping it straight and not sticking your chest out, which causes tension in the lower back.

4. Lower back foam roll

According to NASM, foam rolling your lower back may alleviate your pain temporarily, but not advised for several reasons (1). 

First, the lower back is often not the cause but the recipient of pain. Rolling the lower back does not get to the root of problems. 

Second, the area suited for foam rolling should have sufficient bony protection. The lower back region may be protected by large muscles, but not enough body protection that can protect your organs such as the liver and kidneys. 

5. Jogging

Especially on a hard surface, jogging is a high-impact exercise that can put too much strain on your back, leading to backache.

If you can’t maintain your spine in a neutral position during aerobics, it’s best to avoid it.

6. Burpees

Like jogging, high-impact exercises such as burpees (which includes jumps) is hard on your back as well. Burpees especially involve jumping which even brings a higher impact than running or jogging.

The takeaway is never doing burpees when feeling pain and stiffness in your back.  

7. Straight-Leg Deadlift

The correctly executed deadlift is a great lower body exercise that works for all the major muscle groups in one single movement; however, when it’s done by an individual with a weak back and core, it can hurt and worsen the existing back problems.

With a weak back, it’s too easy to allow your spine to round out during the movement, causing your lower back to do all the work and lead to more pain in the region. 

If you have a previous back injury and don’t have the good core strength, avoid this move completely. 

Your core muscles are designed to resist movement, not create it.

“The core muscles are anti-movers and work to stabilize the spine while the appendages move,” The core’s bracing effect protects your spine and helps transfer power between your lower and upper body, like when you throw a ball or swing a bat.

The Dumbbell Side Bend takes you through a range of motion that is limited to that specific exercise.

You rarely, if ever, tilt your upper body to the side in this fashion in your daily life. Avoid this exercise at all cost 

8. Seated Russian Twist

 It is a sure way to hurt your back. The lower back is just not designed to rotate.

Its main job is to bend forward and back and flex and extend. The high level of disc compression and twisting involved in seated Russian Twists is exactly the combination of forces that placed you at risk for lower back injuries. It’s best to skip. 

9. Bent over rows

The bent-over row is one of the best back exercises to work the entire posterior chains because of all the muscle engagement during the exercise. However, this back exercise also comes with a problem. 

The problem with the bent-over row is that it forces your lower back to do all the work and places a lot of stress on your back. Because of that, the risk of hurting your back outweighs the benefit.

It’s best to substitute it with other back exercises such as the inverted rows and seated rows. 

Final Word

If you have a bad lower back, avoid doing any of these exercises mentioned above. They pose the risk of worsening your lower back pain. 

As with any exercise, before starting your new regimen, be sure to consult with a licensed professional to make sure the exercise is right for you. 


Stull, Kyle, et al. “Should You Foam Roll the Low Back?” NASM, blog.nasm.org/ces/foam-roll-low-back.


About the Author

Misato Alexandre

She co-founded Fitwirr to make health and fitness simple for everyone and share her tips through writing evidence-based articles on nutrition, weight loss, and exercise.

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