3 back-friendly core exercises to try if your painful rear is holding you back

Spoiler alert: it contains no planks

man doing crunches
(Image credit: Getty)

Strengthening our core, whether that’s be doing dead bugs every day or side planks, is so important for our body’s overall health. It aids good posture, reduces the chance of injury and can decrease back pain. But when you suffer from a bad back  itself, trying to work on your core can feel like an impossible task because, well, it hurts! This core workout, however, is completely back-friendly, so that you can still work on your core without causing yourself further discomfort. But, more importantly, it works those deep core muscles that will really protect and benefit our body, not just its aesthetics.

Many people today are fixated on how to get a six-pack and while it’s absolutely fine if that’s your goal, it's important to note that ‘abs’ shouldn’t be synonymous with a strong core. Being able to work on those deep ‘inner core muscles’ when you suffer from back pain is key, because the stronger they are, the less pain you may experience. I personally have always found my back is at its best when I’ve continuously been working on my core. When it starts to fatigue and ache, it’s usually when I’ve abandoned those exercises altogether.

This core workout from Nike Global Trainer, David Carson, is only made up of three moves that are all back-friendly and will turn on deep core muscles that you never knew existed. In the video a yoga block is used for two of the moves to increase the intensity and  engage your core more, but they can be performed without one. I’d aim to do each exercise for 8 to 10 reps (remember, go easy on the back and if anything feels painful stop) and to do two rounds minimum, three ideally. 

Here’s what you’ll do:

  • Dead bugs: Lie on your back with your arms extended above your head and your legs in table top position. Slowly and simultaneously, extend the same side arm and leg out until they’re both vertical and hovering just above the floor. Again, slowly, bring them back to starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
  • Lying leg extension with wall push: Find a wall and lie flat on your back with your feet in table top position and your arms extended behind your head, pushing against the wall. Lower one leg slowly to the floor, then bring it back to starting position and repeat on the other side.
  • Supine knees side to side: Lie on your back, bring your legs into table top position and your arms stretched out to the sides. Drop your knees slowly to one side, making sure they don’t touch the floor and that your shoulders remain firmly on the ground, then bring them back to the middle. Repeat on the other side.

Make time to do these at least 3 to 4 times a week and you'll definitely find your core becomes stronger. If you suffer from extreme back pain though, it's best to double check with your GP first to see if they think these exercises are suitable for you.

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.