5 Simple Moves to Eliminate Low Back Pain for Good

by Greatist
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5 Simple Moves to Eliminate Low Back Pain for Good

Chronic low back pain, which affects millions of Americans each year, is often caused by a sedentary lifestyle and/or heavy use, which might sound a little like you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. But you’re not! There are many treatment options available to low back pain sufferers, ranging from medications to surgery. But one of the most sustainable and effective solutions for eliminating chronic low back pain is the (totally free!) regular practice of back-strengthening exercises.

There are several simple moves that (when practiced often) can reduce and eliminate low back pain by helping prevent weakness from inactivity and improving the body’s ability to tolerate activity as you get older.

The most important muscle groups to target include the back extensors and deep core stabilizers, abdominals, and glutes. It’s also important to keep the upper leg muscles strong and flexible in order to avoid strain on the supporting structures of the back. Movements that target these muscles should focus both on stabilization through the core and building endurance. Here, we outline five of the best moves you can do to keep your back healthy now and down the road.

5 Strength Exercises to Beat Back Pain

You can do these moves virtually anywhere to strengthen your back and core and support your lower back. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing functional training like these exercises two to three times per week for 20 to 30 minutes per session.

Try moving through the routine below, repeating each exercise 2 to 4 times. To be sure you reap all the back-boosting benefits, pay close attention to your form during every movement.

1. Decompression Breathing
decompression breathingA little extra O2 can do a body good—especially when you’re lengthening the body at the same time! Use this move to teach yourself how to breathe deeply and keep your spine long and strong at all times.

Stand with your toes touching and your heels slightly apart. Shift weight into your heels, unlock your knees, and gently pull your heels toward each other. Stand tall, reach your arms overhead, and press your fingertips together. With your inhale, lift the ribcage away from the hips. On the exhale, tighten the core to support the “lengthened” spine. Repeat this breathing process until you feel tall and supported.

2. Founder to Forward Fold
founder to forward foldSticking out your booty might feel embarrassing, but this move is called a founder because it’s setting you up for success in building integrated back and core strength. If a full founder puts too much tension on your lower back, try doing a modified founder with your hands back behind you (pictured below). If you’ve got tight hamstrings, use a prop (such as a chair) to help bring the ground just a wee bit closer to you. Remember—the goal is to reinforce good movement patterns. Use props or modify the full move if it helps you keep a neutral and stable spine.

Modified Founder
modified founderFrom the modified founder position, inhale and reach your arms out in front of your heart, keeping your hips back and pressing your fingertips together, with the pinkies pressing in the hardest. Slowly lift the arms all the way up, and keep the core pulled in to maintain a neutral spine. Hold 15 to 20 seconds.

Forward Fold
forward foldFrom full founder, float the hands down to the ground as you drive your hips back. Unlock your knees and keep the weight in your heels. When your hands are down to the ground (or on a prop, for people with tight hamstrings) pull your hips back, up, and away, reaching your hands as far forward as possible to counterbalance. Hold 20 to 30 seconds.

To stand up, keep your weight in your heels, slide your hands up your shins, and bring your spine into neutral. Sweep the arms back into Modified Founder position. Press the heels into the ground and bring your hips forward to stand up.

3. Adductor-Assisted Back Extension
back extensionThis well-known exercise isolates some of the deeper muscles of the lower back. Add in a little extra support from your inner thighs and some increased activation of the hamstrings, and you’ve got a recipe for building back muscles strong like a superhero’s.

Start on the ground, lying on your stomach. Flex your feet and zip your legs together, keeping just a slight bend at the knees. Press your hips and knees into the ground and lift your elbows up until the hands “float” above the ground. Pull your shoulders down towards your butt while lifting your chest off the ground. Keep your neck long and hold the pose for 20 to 30 seconds.

4. Eight-Point Plank
8-point plankA plank with your elbows and knees on the ground sounds like it should be easy, but this one sure isn’t. Get ready to focus a bit more on your abs to create some serious support for your spine.

Lie on your stomach with your feet flexed, knees touching, and elbows a few inches in front of your shoulders. Pull your shoulders away from your ears, and gently squeeze the knees and elbows toward the centerline of body. Press knees, toes, and elbows into the mat as you lift your hips up to the height of the shoulders. Tighten your core and maintain a long, neutral spine. Pull the elbows and knees toward each other (as though you’re trying to bring the top and bottom of your mat together), and hold the plank for 20 to 30 seconds. If you begin to tremble, you’re doing this right.

5. Woodpecker
woodpeckerNamed after the feisty little bird that tips forward when it hunts for food, this move will strengthen both your butt muscles and your back.

From a lunge position, press through your front heel and stand tall. Lift the back heel up off the ground and reach the arms out in front of your heart. Drive your butt as far back as you can, without moving your knee, until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Your arms will naturally reach further forward to counterbalance. Tighten your core, taking care to maintain a neutral spine, and slowly reach the arms overhead. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Modified Woodpecker
modified woodpeckerIf a full woodpecker is too tough, try keeping your arms back behind you in a modified version while you build up the strength to perform the full version.

The Takeaway

Research shows that frequently bracing the core and strengthening your back muscles can be effective in promoting long-term relief from chronic low back pain. Meanwhile, sedentary behavior has been shown to be a health risk in and of itself itself—so next time you catch yourself sitting for a long period of time, stand up and do some Decompression Breathing, a Founder, or any of the exercises outlined above. You’ll give your body a break from sitting, and you’ll be working the muscles that support your spine. With a practice and minimal time commitment, a strong and supple back can be yours for the long haul!


Beth Alexander is a California-based personal trainer with a passion for teaching proper posture and movement patterns. Certified through both the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council On Exercise, her specialty is integrated movement—teaching people to use muscles to work together for healthy functional movements. To learn more about Beth, visit her website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

All referenced postures were created by Dr. Eric Goodman, creator of Foundation Training, a series of bodyweight exercises designed to strengthens the posterior chain of muscles. Foundation Training includes several simple moves that (when practiced often) can reduce and eliminate low back pain by helping prevent weakness and inactivity and improving the body’s ability to tolerate activity over time. For more information about Foundation Training, visit the website.

Images courtesy of Greatist. 

About the Author


Greatist helps you find what’s good for you. Not like “eat your vegetables, they’re good for you.” More like “here are some choices you can realistically make, stick with, and feel really good about.” Because in the end, you don’t have to choose between being happy and being healthy; they’re really the same thing.




38 responses to “5 Simple Moves to Eliminate Low Back Pain for Good”

  1. Avatar Ingrid Bokvist says:

    It would be great if these pics were short videos taking you through the moves.

  2. Avatar Coach Levi says:

    If you have a desk job it’s great to bust out a few of these moves throughout the day.

  3. Avatar punkins says:

    I’m somewhat confused by the founder/forward fold as they seem to be using the same image

    • Avatar juno says:

      Same here. You can find a video of “the founder position” on YouTube, which makes the explanation above much easier to understand

  4. Avatar Jacqueline Whittaker says:

    I really need these moves shown on a video. I got confused reading the instructions

  5. Avatar rdl says:

    agree with punkins. Is Founder the same as decompression breathing? Confusing.

  6. Avatar Marcia says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, I really needed these moves!

  7. Avatar PrincessVee says:

    I’m also confused by the founder/forward fold.

  8. Avatar Maria says:

    Video demo would help for sure

  9. Avatar June McGrath says:

    I agree with the other comments; videos would be helpful. For example, the decompression breathing says to shift your weight on to your heels, unlock your knees, then pull your heels together. How can you pull your heels together with your weight on your heels?

  10. Avatar Daniella How Abou Chedid says:

    Dreadful! As a physiotherapist these are many of the moves I might suggest a patient with lower back pain to avoid. A personal trainer SHOULD NOT be giving this advice. THEY ARE NOT QUALIFIED, they are working a long way outside of their qualification. Get a physical therapist to suggest exercises but still, a diagnosis must be established. LBP could be from a joint or from a disc. They need very different approaches. It could be triggered by other very different sources, including some very serious conditions. Please get cleared of these first. If you are in the UK, please go see your local NHS as they have lots of experience dealing with this and will empower you with the tools to prevent future episodes.

    • Avatar Missy says:

      I agree, as I was reading this I was thinking WOW I can’t imagine a physiotherapist recommending these moves. I think they might actually make things worse. Scary!

    • Avatar Jim says:

      After researching the author of this article, these exercises are meant to be performed after being evaluated by a professional then performing a series of exercises appropriate to that individual. Corrective exercises designed to correct postural dysfunction and alignment should be done under the supervision of a certified professional. Not a Generic article proclaiming you can “eliminate back pain” with these simple steps. The Public then rushes to a “get fixed quick” without all of the facts.

    • Avatar punkins says:

      I’m not at all surprised a personal trainer is suggesting moves that will hurt people. I joined a gym at one point and was strongly coerced into a personal training session I did not want that hurt me even after I gave him a very detailed description of medical issues I have. It was humiliating and I ended up in serious pain and unable to work out for several weeks. Needless to say I quit and insisted they refund me (which they did). Luckily it did not cause any major lasting issues or I would have sued. Not all personal trainers are qualified. I’ve had some other great ones though. The good ones listen to you.

      • Avatar Daniella How Abou Chedid says:

        Im so sorry you’ve had this experience. That sounds utterly awful. Unfortunately it is incredibly difficult to remove these people from the industry. There are exercise registers, supposed to be guardians of the industry to protect the users, but honestly I have been very disappointed with what they provide and how they self regulate. its far below the medical industry standards, and yet they do work with peoples’ bodies.

        There are well trained professionals in this area who can work alongside medical professionals to provide you with a graded exercise program. They are termed GP referral specialists in the UK and I am certain you can find them outside in other parts of the world. A physiotherapy centre may have a list of professionals they work with. Or you may also be able to find a physiotherapist who works in fitness rehabilitation. If you are in the UK, a good start would be a search on the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy website.

        Please don’t let this one experience put you off finding your healthy self.

        • Avatar punkins says:

          Thank you, I’m absolutely not letting that stop me. That was about a year and a half ago and I’ve pressed on. I’m familiar enough with my body to stop when I feel like I need to, he just pushed me past my limit without ever acknowledging there was a reason for my hesitation. I think he just assumed I was being a baby. I have a friend who is a very good personal trainer and leads circuit classes. She listens the moment someone says “I don’t think I can do this” and provides other options. As for me, swimming has helped me tremendously and my activity tracker gives me a good overall idea of how much I’m moving around in a day.

  11. Avatar Faviola Valencia says:

    If you read at the bottom of the article you will see these exercises are recommended by a Doctor…I use to have chronic back pain due to discs, etc…but they actually work Certified through both the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council On Exercise, her specialty is integrated movement—teaching people to use muscles to work together for healthy functional movements. To learn more about Beth, visit her website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

    All referenced postures were created by Dr. Eric Goodman, creator of Foundation Training, a series of bodyweight exercises designed to strengthens the posterior chain of muscles. Foundation Training includes several simple moves that (when practiced often) can reduce and eliminate low back pain by helping prevent weakness and inactivity and improving the body’s ability to tolerate activity over time. For more information about Foundation Training, visit the website.”

  12. Avatar Crooked back says:

    Decompressed breathing -shift your weight to your heals and bring them together. Kinda impossible! LOL

  13. Avatar Tigger says:

    It would great if what you were saying is true, you haven’t a flamin clue!
    1) millions all over the world suffer from chronic back pain
    2) sedentary lifestyle or an active healthy lifestyle can lead to chronic debilitating back pain, not just heavy work.
    3) if some who is suffering from chronic back pain could do the suggested exercises wouldn’t be suffering from pain in the first place and if they didn’t cause more distress I’d be flabbergasted.
    Walking is the best form of exercise for a pain sufferer
    4) some of your suggestions are good suggestions

    I suggest you talk to people suffering from chronic pain, whi cry themselves to sleep every night and no matter which way they move it hurts. Sleep is something we wish for. I agree with Daniella.

    Your research appears to come from a book and not actual facts, you’re article is basically rubbish.

  14. Avatar Joan says:

    Set aside the scary “sitting will kill you” headlines. Standing at my desk instead of sitting makes me stand up straight, which feels good. We make standing desks and a lot of our customers swear by them to get rid of back pain: Erector Desk

  15. Avatar JHE says:

    Had a severe lower back problem in 2014. After X-Rays, MRI, prescribed therapy sessions, medication, etc. with limited success, I began private, once a week, yoga lessons at my home 5 months ago incorporating the moves (or some similar variation) noted in this article. I then attempt to duplicate these moves on various other days, if possible, on my own. Haven’t had any lower back issues since….so I am convinced these stretches are absolutely the best thing you can do for your lower back symptoms!!

  16. Avatar scott says:

    I agree with having these as videos!! Would be very helpful!!!!

  17. Avatar jlive says:

    I agree short videos would eliminate spending all your time reading, this would also help people with specific learning difficulties such as, dyslexia.

  18. Avatar nungurner says:

    Why can’t I print out the exercises. Can only get Page 1 then “Printer Error”. Help please

  19. Avatar Lisa Redding says:

    He’s a doctor of Chiropractic.

  20. Avatar Amit Singh says:

    Very helpful blog to get Relief from Back pain. Can Also visit on

  21. Avatar Alice.Wilson says:

    Great post!! These exercises will surely eliminate back pain issues. But still the pain continues then one of the clinic available is Mississauga Physiotherapy clinics which will cure the pain permanently.

  22. Nice explanation about how to deal with back-pain. Yes, you are right, so many Americans are facing back-pain issues in his early age. As per my analyze so many Americans are working on back-office job and they have to work 8-10 hours daily in the office. So back-pain is necessary to him. What is the best time to do this exercise to avoid back-pain?

  23. Avatar ted bochi says:

    it is important to understand that there are many kinds of pain associated with the back. A solution for one does not necessarily mean it is good for the next person. This is why it is always a good idea to learn about available options then consult with a health professional.
    One cannot discount a proposed treatment without consulting first. There are many people suffering from pain who may benefit from these exercises.

  24. Avatar ted bochi says:

    One more thing is to consider what stage the back pain is at as each stage requires a different type treatment.

  25. Avatar Advanced Back & Neck Pain says:

    Personally I have noticed a great difference when exercising my core. Overall I feel like there is less pressure on my midsection in general and it feels great! Thanks for sharing this solid read!

  26. Avatar Healthpower says:

    Nice Blog! Simple Moves to Eliminate Low Back Pain for Good

  27. Yes i think video it would be a great ideea more useful

  28. Avatar Sandness Peak says:

    Such an important topic. I had terrible back pain last year, i tried almost every treatment for my back pain recovery but i was still in pain. Then i come to know about these five exercises that you have mentioned above. After doing these exercises regularly for about a month, my pain has almost gone now.

  29. Avatar Sandness Peak says:

    I have chronic head pressure/pain. Very light. It used to be very
    painful but I managed to bring it down to mild pressure. A week ago I
    had a break through(back to normal) but then relapsed the next day. I
    was wondering if alternate medicine and physical therapy applies to me.

    Also, I tried a therapist and it only stressed me out

  30. Thank you for sharing an informational blog. It is really helpful.

  31. With the kind of lifestyle most of us live today, having back pain seems to be a common occurrence. Must agree that exercise helps, but these instructions would’ve been more effective if it were in form of a GIF or video. Aside from exercise, changing your lifestyle a bit to a healthier one can do a lot of good. Moreover, having chairs and a work space that supports the posture are also helpful.

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