5 Safe Core Exercises for Back Pain

If you want to work on your abs but need to be extra careful with your bad back, try these safe core exercises for back pain!

Some core exercises are just not good for your back. You probably learned this first hand if you ever felt your back pain worsen after exercise. However, you can’t just not exercise – and you especially can’t neglect your core. You need core strength to support your muscular and skeletal structure and to prevent injuries.

To avoid doing further harm to your back, stay away from any exercises that apply too much stress to the core and muscles surrounding your spine. Instead, stick to gentler exercises that can help strengthen your abs without hurting your back.

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This five-exercise gentle core routine is approved for all levels to ease and prevent future back pain. All you need is a yoga mat or a soft carpeted area to practice.

To do this routine, complete each of the core exercises for back pain in succession. If you feel up to it, repeat the circuit again. Do this three times per week, giving yourself one to two days of recovery between workouts, to gently train your core muscles without exacerbating back pain.

Note: If you have existing or chronic back pain that worsens with even gentle exercise, stop this routine and seek help from a specialist.

Cat-Cow | 5 breaths


This easy flow gently flexes and contracts the muscles of your abs, lower back, and core. If you feel any pain here, try shortening the movements and focus on flexing and stretching in a range of motion that feels good.

  1. Start on all-fours position with hips over knees and shoulders over hands.
  2. On an exhale, tighten your abs and round your back to come into cat.
  3. Inhale to tilt your pelvis, lift your chest and gaze forward, coming into cow.
  4. Continue to flow with your breath.

Low Modified Plank | 5 breaths

Low modified plank

Planks are incredible at strengthening the core, yet the full version can be too much for someone dealing with back pain. To gain the benefit from this exercise while minimizing the lower-back pressure, lower your knees down to a modified plank. This way you’ll be able to focus on core strength without the overload of tension on your lower back.

  1. Place your forearms on the ground and step your feet back to come into plank. Lower your knees to the ground.
  2. Cross your ankles and keep your gaze down toward your hands. Engage your core. You should have a straight line from shoulders to knees.
  3. Focus on maintaining your form as you take 5 deep breaths.

Modified Side Plank | 5 breaths per side

Modified side plank

We often forget our sides when exercising. This move will ensure you’re training your core from all angles, and the easy modification helps you focus on strengthening your core without struggling through any pain.

  1. Lie on your right side with your right elbow on the ground, right under your shoulder.
  2. Bend your knees to a 90-degree angle and stack them on top of each other.
  3. Lift your hips off the ground to form a straight line from knees to shoulders. Rest your left hand on your hip.
  4. Take 5 deep breaths here, then switch sides.

Braced Heel Drops | 5 reps per side

Braced heel drops

Learning to brace your abs when moving your arms and legs can help prevent back pain. Take it slow with this exercise and only lower your heel as far as you can without losing your core contraction. Place your fingers on your belly to confirm that your abs are engaged as you move one leg at a time.

  1. Lie on your back and lift your legs up in the air. Flex your feet.
  2. Place one hand under your head and the other hand on your abs.
  3. Contract your abs to “brace” your core by flexing your belly in towards your spine. Your abs should feel engaged under your fingertips.
  4. On an inhale, very slowly lower one heel towards the ground. If your abs lose tension, try a smaller range of motion. Exhale to bring your leg back up to the top.
  5. Continue alternating legs for 5 reps per side.

Important: Do not allow your lower back to lift off the ground. If you find your back arching or your abs losing tension, shorten your range of motion.

Seated Corset Breathing | 10 breaths

Seated corset breathing

Breathing exercises are an effective way to train your core muscles without any risky stress to the back. Focus on belly breathing rather than chest breathing, while tightening your waist from all sides, including front, sides, and back.

  1. Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair. Place one hand on your lower back and the other hand on your belly.
  2. Take a deep inhale through your nose and expand your abdominal muscles.
  3. Exhale all the air through your mouth and contract your waist as small and tight as possible.
  4. Continue breathing this way for 10 breaths. Take it slow and keep your focus on core expansion and contraction.

If your back pain is still keeping you from doing things you enjoy, try our state of the art mobility program the Release Rebalance Method. Prepare to overcome lower back and hip pain in just nine minutes a day with guidance from leading Hollywood Physical Therapist, Brian Schwabe. Click here to start your recovery now!

5 core exercises for back pain

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