Let’s be honest, your lower back is not getting the attention it deserves. With more aesthetically desirable muscle group such as your chest, quads, or abs, your lower back is neglected when it comes to your resistance training protocol. That being said, as part of your core, it is considered a functional muscle group that bears the load and works in unison with multiple joints and secondary muscle groups within compound movements, like the deadlift, snatch, overhead press, and squat. The lower back is the main weight-bearing area of your posterior chain, therefore the stronger your lower back, the better your posture, balance, core stability, and athletic performance will be. Give your back the attention it needs with the 5 best lower back compound exercises for total body strength.
Lower Back Muscles
The lower back is comprised of two main muscles, the erector spinae and transversospinales, which collectively make part of your core. The erector spinae, which helps keep the spine erect and provides functionality for rotation, is composed of three smaller muscles and tendons, specifically the — iliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis.
The transversospinales are a group of three muscles covering the lumbar and sacral region of your lower back. They work together to achieve rotation and extension of the vertebral column. These muscles are small and have a poor mechanical advantage for contributing to motion as compared to other dominant back muscles. They include the three semispinalis muscles - rotatores, multifidus, and semispinalis spanning 4-6 vertebral columns.
Lower Back Exercise Benefits
A strong lower back can be extremely beneficial by providing better posture, reducing the risk for injury, as well as improving core stability and total body strength. Better core stability and supporting strength, will inevitably improve functional movement and athletic performance.
1. Preventing Injury
Lower back strength is crucial for preventing injury. Your low back is not compromised of superficial muscles, which provide real aesthetic benefit, but functional strength. Most resistance training exercises, as well as compound functional movements commonly found in training modalities such as CrossFit, and Olympic weightlifting, depend on core stability and strength. Your lower back is 50% the opposing force of abdominals. Compound movements such as the deadlift, squat, overhead press, and snatch require core stability, and a strong lower back to stabilize and increase load lifted and support heavy volumes. Without lower back strength your spine would not provide adequate stability to support functional movement, and would inevitably lead to injury.
2. Total Body Strength
A strong lower back directly translates to better lifts and increased load lifted when it comes to total body strength. If you can increase your lower back strength you also increase the amount of weight you can lift in other compound movements, such as deadlift, squat, and snatch.
Increased low back strength also means a better, more solid core. Core stability helps keep you spine erect, providing better supporting strength when you rotate, bend, lift, or jump.
3. Better Athletic Performance
With an aggregate growth in strength, comes better athletic performance. Core stability and strength is fundamental to every aspect of human movement. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to perform simple but necessary patterns of movement, such as bending, twisting, turning, and straitening your spine. A strong lower back can improve functional strength, whether it’s bending over and pickup up groceries, to swinging a baseball bat, your lower back plays an integral role in power and performance.
5 Best Lower Back Exercises
Deadlifts are one of, if not the best lower back exercise. Deadlifts have many known full body benefits and are extremely crucial in the development of total-body strength, proper hip function, core strength, and spine stabilization which can reduce the risk of lower back injuries.
Deadlifts recruit multiple muscle groups, joints, and stabilizing muscles, they also burn more calories and more body fat as compared to other exercise movements. With the proper form, the deadlift can add a ton of performance and health benefits, to your training program.
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2. Good Mornings
Often misunderstood, the good morning exercise is a neglected yet effective strength movement functioning as a mix between the squat and the deadlift. Also called a hip-hinge the good morning has earned a somewhat infamous reputation for being a bit on the dangerous side. When done correctly however, good mornings are an effective strength exercise that benefit the muscles in your posterior chain including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
Training with intent or purpose, is always important to reach your goals. If you’re training to build more leg strength, improve hip mobility, or strengthen your posterior chain, the good morning can be extremely beneficial. Often referred to as training specificity, or how an exercise replicates functional activities to produce the greatest performance gains, good mornings are effective at increasing functional strength in the hamstrings and lower back, due to its specific training purpose.
3. Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
The Romanian deadlift or commonly known as the RDL, is a functional compound strength movement and variation to the traditional deadlift. Most often used as an accessory lift, with a submaximal load, the Romanian deadlift has many applications in strength training, as well as high-intensity functional training programs
The Romanian deadlift is slightly different than the traditional deadlift. Although both movements will increase strength and muscle hypertrophy in the posterior chain muscles, Romanian deadlifts emphasize and target the hamstrings, and lower back as opposed to the glutes [R].
The primary muscles involved in the RDL are the posterior chain muscles, including the erector spinae, trapezius, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and adductors.
4. Farmers Carry
A farmer’s carry, aka the farmer’s walk, is just that, a carry. While the movement is typically utilized or publicized by strongman competitions, just about anyone, anywhere, with anything, can do a farmer’s carry. The exercise itself is performed by picking up two weights, either of equal weight or contralateral distributions, and walking in a controlled manner for a designated distance.
The farmer’s carry is an extremely effective exercise shown to benefit core stability, strength, and improve exercise conditioning.
Hypers or the hyperextension is one of the most targeted and best lower back exercises. The hyperextension utilizes full range of motion (flexion and extension) of the erector spinae, stimulating several posterior chain muscles such as glutes and hamstrings to build more lower back strength.
Considering this is an isolated movement you have more control stimulating and contracting the smaller lower back muscles, as opposed to contracting them as part of a compound movement, thus improving strength and aesthetic. When you hear someone at the gym yell out, "nice lower back bro!" it's because you worked on your hypers.
Best Lower Back Exercises: Takeaway
Your lower back is fundamental in all functional movement. Building more lower back strength by focusing on your core will produce better posture, balance, core stability, and functional strength. By incorporating these lower back compound exercises into your weekly training protocol, you will improve overall athletic performance, as well as your quality of life.
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