8 Exercises That’ll Make Your Lower Back Pain Worse (& Safe Alternatives)

lower back pain exercises

I know how you feel:

Your lower back hurts and all you want to do is rest with an ice/heat pack glued to your back.

And if your pain is debilitating and you can’t move – that’s the right thing to do for a while.


If you can movesome types of exercises are incredibly good for your back. They will strengthen it and make your core muscles, which support your back – stronger.

Some popular exercises, though, may not only make your pain worse but cause further damage – whether you can feel it or not.

These otherwise effective exercises can pull your spine out of alignment, put too much pressure on your disks, pinch a nerve — or just give you (more) unnecessary back pain.

Here you will find 8 exercises to avoid when your lower back hurts, even if you can’t wait to get back to the gym.

And here’s how to avoid post-workout lower back pain!

The 8 Most Dangerous Lower Back Pain Exercises

exercises to avoid with lower back pain

1. Any Exercise That Causes Pain

Pain is your body’s way of saying “stop it!”

I don’t mean the “good kind of pain”, when your muscles are working. When the pain feels like burning, or stabbing, or lasts for more than a couple of minutes, it’s time to stop.

This is the point when exercise turns into an injury or further injury.

See the 5 best ways to recover from a lower back injury – naturally!

Always listen to your body.

2. High-Impact Aerobic Exercise

Any type of high-impact aerobic exercise requires caution, especially when done on a hard surface.

Jogging, running, tennis and some types of dance are examples of exercises to avoid when you have lower back pain.

If you can’t maintain your spine in a neutral position during aerobic exercise, you will not be able to protect your back and you will cause more damage to it.

Also, avoid any contact sports and rebounding for a while.

3. Squats and Jumping Squats


No matter the cause of your lower back pain (muscle knots, bulging disc, pinched nerve, sciatica, etc), jumping, in general, is a bad idea.

Squats are effective yet risky because they may cause lower back strain, especially when done improperly.

4. “Abs” and Sit Ups

When you do sit-ups, your lower back gets hit when your hip flexors pull on the spine to raise your upper body off the ground.

Sit-ups and crunches put unnecessary stress on your lower back and neck.

The worst abs exercise is when your legs lay flat and the floor and someone sits on your feet. It actually strains your lower back and doesn’t even target your abs, by the way.

5. Holding Free Weights Away From Your Body

Side raises, front raises, side bends, back bends and dumbbell overhead presses are a big no-no if you have lower back pain.

It’s very hard to keep your back aligned while doing these and they cause unnecessary strain on your lower back.

6. Torso Twists

Though these are highly popular in Yoga and Pilates classes, they may not be such a good idea for acute lower back pain.

Turning your upper body while keeping your lower body forward is not only an awkward movement, but it puts stress on the spine and can eventually cause nerve damage.

7. Leg Lifts and Leg Lowers

Popular at boot camp-style workouts and Pilates, this exercise has you lying on your back trying to lower your legs to the ground or lift them from the ground.

If your low back arches off the ground, you risk back muscle strain and injury.

8. Straight-Legged Forward Bends

Most herniated discs occur when we’re bending forward – especially when twisting to the side or lifting something.

So…not a good idea right now. Don’t do these until your disc is strong enough to support this position and when all other forms of flexion feel comfortable.

See the best home treatments for herniated lumbar discs.

The Safe Alternatives

The best way to strengthen your lower back pain is to focus on your core (which includes the glutes, hip flexors, abs and obliques, and pelvic floor for women).

Excellent core strengthening workouts include:

1. Yoga and Pilates


Pilates combines stretching, strengthening, and core abdominal exercises. But not all exercises will be good for lower back pain, so you’ll have to tell the instructor about your limitations.

Yoga is great because as long as your teacher knows your limitations, few exercises combine flexibility and strength as well as Yoga.

If you want to do Pilates or Yoga at home, make sure you know what you’re doing.

Here’s a great resource:  A 15-Minute-a-Day Yoga and Pilates-Based Program to End Low Back Pain.

2. Swimming and Water Aerobics

swimming small

Swimming and walking are probably the most beneficial exercises for lower back pain.

Walking is a great aerobics choice for lower back pain, and swimming (or water aerobics) is even better.

Water provides support and resistance. Almost any type of exercise done in water is beneficial and safe for low back pain.

Water fitness, walking in water, and water aerobics are all exercises that can take the load off your joints but still give you a full workout.

Here’s a great guide with 78 safe and effective water aerobics exercises.

3. Muscle Balance Therapy

Muscle Balance Therapy
Muscle Balance Therapy

If you’ll ask any chiropractor, he’ll probably tell you that most back pain cases are caused by muscle imbalances – The hidden root cause of back pain problems.

Simply put, muscle imbalances happen when you have overdeveloped muscles in one area of your body while the opposing area is weak and stretched out of its normal position.

Muscle balance therapy is a home program by The Healthy Back Institute, which helps you easily pinpoint the location of your muscle imbalances (and prove to yourself that you indeed have them).

This will be a breakthrough for you – you’ll discover the root cause of your low back pain.

The results of this initial assessment will then be used to design a specific program of corrective exercises – tailored exactly for you.

Final Warning

If your back pain increases when you try to exercise, it’s best to stop for a few days before trying again. If you have a fever, suffered a back trauma, or have unexplained weight loss – see a doctor.

What about you? Is there any exercise that made your back pain worse? Or better? Share your story in the comments.

To your health and happiness,


3 thoughts on “8 Exercises That’ll Make Your Lower Back Pain Worse (& Safe Alternatives)”

  1. Would seated leg press high reps have caused my back and leg paim.I haven’t been active for 2hrs did to change of work or manual to sitting at screen 14hrs a day.

  2. This is a great list of exercises not to do with back issues. I have degenerative disc and I can only do very low impact workouts or I end up in the bed and on a cane for days


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