13 Core Exercises for Back Pain Relief (Beginner through Advanced)

By Savanna Stone
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13 Core Exercises for Back Pain Relief (Beginner through Advanced)

Strengthening your core is one of the most important things you can do to invest in long-term back pain relief. Many back pain issues are caused by lack of core strength and can be solved by strengthening your core muscles. If it has been a long time since you exercised your core, you might be hesitant to even try again because of the many sad memories of tiring core exercises. Core strengthening doesn’t have to be discouraging! That’s why we’ve included three levels of core strengthening exercises so that you can start slowly, making back pain relief easier for you. Doing these exercises a few times a week will help you start to strengthen your core and reduce back pain caused by a weak core. 

How will you know what level to start on? Just like any exercise, do what is right for you. When it comes to core strengthening exercises for back pain, if it’s hard to do that means it’s working. Some core strengthening exercises like crunches are just too easy to get anything out of unless you’re doing it right. For these exercises, if you can do all three sets or the whole exercise easily, you might want to move up a level. If it is difficult for you to do a complete set, move down a level. You can even tweak the existing exercises to fit you. If you can’t hold a plank for 30 seconds, start off with 20 or even 10 seconds. As long as you’re trying, nothing is wrong!




BEGINNER

Half Plank

  1. Start on your hands and knees with your shoulders directly over your hands and your hips directly over your knees.
  2. Step your left foot back, curling your toes under. Place your weight solely on your hands and your left foot. Focus on lengthening and stretching your body.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds.
  4. Do this on both sides.

Forearm Plank


  1. Start on your hands and knees with your shoulders directly over your hands and your hips directly over your knees.
  2. Drop down to your forearms with your elbows directly under your shoulders.
  3. Step both feet back and curl your toes under. 
  4. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  5. Rest for 15 seconds and repeat 2 more times. 




Boat

  1. Sit down on the floor with your knees bent and your hands behind your head.
  2. Lean back slightly so that your feet lift off the ground. Your body should look like a V but with your knees still bent. If this is difficult for you, hold this position.
  3. For something a bit harder, straighten your arms and legs up to the sky so your whole body looks like a V. You can keep your legs together for an easier version or expand your legs for a harder version. 
  4. Hold for 30 seconds and rest for 15 seconds. Repeat 2 more times.




Side Plank



  1. Lie on your side with your forearm resting on the ground. Make sure your elbow is directly under your shoulder.
  2. Place your top foot on your bottom foot.
  3. Lift your torso off the ground so your body is straight from head to toe.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds and rest for 15 seconds. Repeat 2 more times.



Dead Bug

  1. Lie on your back with your arms and legs straight up in the air but with bent legs.
  2. Slowly lower your right arm and left leg simultaneously until they reach an inch from the ground. Repeat on the other side.
  3. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.






INTERMEDIATE

Full Plank

  1. Start on your hands and knees with your shoulders directly over your hands and your hips directly over your knees.
  2. Step both feet back and curl your toes under. 
  3. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  4. Rest for 15 seconds and repeat 2 more times. 


Boat 2

  1. Sit down on the floor with your knees bent and your hands behind your head.
  2. Lean back slightly so that your feet lift off the ground. Your body should look like a V.
  3. Keeping your core tight, touch your toes and rest your legs and arms back down. Note: Don’t round your back because it can cause back pain. Don’t rest your whole body back down for this exercise.
  4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Side Plank Reach

  1. Get into the side plank position as described above.
  2. Straighten your top arm up to the sky, taking your gaze with it.
  3. Staying in the side plank position, reach your top arm down to touch the inside of your lower chest. Return to starting position.
  4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Knee to Elbow



  1. Start in the plank position.
  2. Keeping your core tight and your back straight, pull your right knee up to touch your right elbow.
  3. Do the same with your left side.
  4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
  5. To make it even more difficult, try mountain climbers, which is the knee to elbow but much faster like you are running.




ADVANCED 

Wall Plank

  1. Go to a wall. Start next to the wall on your hands and knees with your shoulders directly over your hands and your hips directly over your knees, facing away from the wall. 
  2. Step both feet back against the wall behind you. Your body should be parallel to the ground.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  4. Rest for 15 seconds and repeat 2 more times. 


Boat 3

  1. Lie on your back with your legs and arms out straight. Lift your legs and arms so they are hovering a few inches from the ground.
  2. Simultaneously lift your arms, torso and legs into a V and touch your toes. Lie back down to the starting position without resting all the way to the ground. Keep your core tight throughout the whole movement. Note: Don’t round your back because it can cause back pain
  3. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Side Plank Crunch

  1. Start in the side plank position as described above in the beginner section.
  2. Bring your top hand behind your head.
  3. Pull your top knee up to touch your top elbow and then go back to the starting position.
  4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Bear Shoulder Tap



  1. Start on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
  2. Lift your knees a few inches off the ground, keeping your back parallel to the floor.
  3. Keeping your knees up, tap your left shoulder with your right hand and then your right shoulder with your left hand.
  4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

BONUS—WORKOUT RECOVERY

Chirp Wheel+ Stretch

Sit and lean back.

  1. Sit on the ground with knees bent and feet firmly planted. 
  2. Place the Chirp Wheel+ against your back in alignment with your spine. Take some time to center yourself and find balance even on the ground.
  3. Lean back gently to transfer your weight to the wheel. Relax and find balance in this position before lifting your hips.

Lift hips.

  1. Rest your hands on the ground, the wheel, or your chest for balance. Do whichever feels the most comfortable for you.
  2. Lift your hips upward while relaxing your back. Find balance with your hips lifted before rolling on the wheel. 
  3. Don’t tense up! The more you relax your back, the better it will feel.

Roll back and forth.

  1. Begin to roll back and forth on the wheel by bending and straightening your legs. Use your hands for balance. If one spot on your back needs an extra massage, stop rolling to put pressure on that spot. Or switch to a smaller wheel.
  2. Roll out for 3 to 5 minutes. Length of preferred use will vary by individual.
  3. Relax your head back to avoid neck pain. Rolling on the wheel can also help stretch out your abdomen after a hard core workout. 





References

Cleveland Clinic. (2020, May 29). Why a strong core can help reduce low back pain. Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/strong-core-best-guard-back-pain/ 

Harris-Fry, N. (2020, July 2). The best core exercises for all levels of gym-goer. Retrieved from https://www.coachmag.co.uk/fitness/core-exercises

Heffernan, A. (2019, September 3). 6 side plank variations that will clobber your core. Retrieved from https://www.openfit.com/side-plank-exercise-variations

Savva, A. (2020, January 7). The 5 best ab exercises—and the ones that are wasting your time. Retrieved from https://www.chatelaine.com/health/fitness/ab-exercises-that-are-wasting-your-time-5-moves-you-should-do-instead/