The Essential Three Exercises for Overcoming Low Back Pain

Over 80% of adults experience low back pain at least once in their lifetime. And of that eighty percent only 10% seek help to ease it… People deal with low back pain for longer than they should for a variety reasons but one of the most common we hear is that they’re not sure where to start. They’ve been told it just ‘runs in the family’ or is ‘part of getting older’ and decide to never start on the road to recovery. We hope the following three exercises give you that starting point.

These three exercises have been deemed the ‘Essential Three Low Back Pain Exercises’ by low back pain expert Dr. Stu McGill. The reason these are essential is because of their ability to strengthen the muscles that protect the spine without placing a large load on the spine itself (which would cause further irritation). We cover the exercises here.

1.       Curl Up

The curl up is NOT a sit up (an exercise that should be thrown out of any plan for a patient with low back pain). The curl up is an abdominal activation exercise that has been shown to place  minimal stress/load on the low back.

How to Perform: Hands placed palms down under your lumbar spine (low back). Elbows raised off the floor. Head/Neck/Shoulders are slightly raised. Brace abdominals to appropriate level of comfort and challenge for the patient.


2. Side Bridge

The side bridge strengthens critical spine stabilizing muscles while placing minimal load on the    spine as well.

How to Perform: Place elbow directly under shoulder. With knees and hips slightly flixed, come into the side bridge by bringing your hips forward. The body from the knee’s up should now be aligned. Progress to feet (side plank) for more advanced challenge.

Note: For the side plank, feet should be stacked. Placing one foot in front of the other can cause spinal twisting that irritates spinal structures.


3.       Bird Dog

The bird dog strengthens important low back stabilizers including our postural muscles  (low back extensors)and our hip extensors (glutes) – While also placing low amount of load on our     spinal structures (seeing a pattern here?!)

How to perform: On hands and knees with hands directly under shoulders. Tighten abdominals to ensure motion is at shoulders and hips. Raise right arm until in line with body, followed by left leg. Advance by raising right arm and left leg at same time. Repeat on other side.

 Common mistakes:

  • Lifting leg too high (causing rotation of the pelvis)

  • Arching low back (abdominals not braced)


Rep Scheme:

Another important aspect of exercise prescription for low back pain is the rep scheme. Dr. McGill recommends the following rep scheme to avoid muscle cramping while providing a     significant challenge. One rep = 10 second hold.

                Set One: 6 reps, resting 20 seconds after 6th rep

                Set Two: 4 reps, resting 20 seconds after fourth rep

                Set Three: 2 reps, then done


Evolve Performance Healthcare helps active adults keep up with their lifestyle and achieve sustainable pain relief without a reliance on pain killers, endless doctor visits, or costly surgeries. Low back pain is by the far the most common condition we treat in the clinic. We’ve even put together a free report to help you get started on your recovery. Download the following report which gives you things you can implement TODAY to start your recovery from low back pain.

Free Report: Twelve Ways To Take Control of Low Back Pain an Maintain Your Active Lifestyle


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