8 Exercises To Avoid With Lower Back Pain

If you have lower back pain, you know how frustrating it can be to try doing even the simplest physical activity. If you’re planning on starting an exercise program and have lower back pain, you must talk with a health practitioner like an osteopath. Most people with chronic lower back pain would benefit significantly from a tailored exercise program, as a strong back is likely a healthy back. We’ve compiled some exercises you should alter or avoid when exercising your lower-back muscles.

This article will discuss eightjointn exercises that may cause more harm than good for those with a history of LBP or ongoing back problems. In addition, we will share some tips on how to modify those exercises,s, so they’re safe for those who don’t want to give up their workout routine entirely!

8 Exercises to Avoid if You Have Lower Back Pain

1. Toe Touches

Toe touches are a great exercise but aren’t great if you have lower back pain. This exercise can be tough on your lower back if you’re not in the proper starting position. If toe touches consistently worsen your back pain, you could try hamstring stretches first. You may be able to come back to toe touches as your back and hamstring range of motion increases, but be sure to give your body time to change. 

Tip: Try hamstring stretches

Hamstring stretches can be done at home and are an excellent way to improve flexibility in your lower body. These stretches can help people with tight hamstrings reduce lower back pain and improve their posture and gait. Tight hamstrings are incredibly common in people working at a desk, or seated position, as the hamstring is held in a shortened place throughout the day. Always start with gentle stretches and increase the muscle tension as the muscle relaxes.

2. Sit-ups

We explored sit-ups in our blog on exercises to avoid or alter for people suffering from neck pain and, they’re also not the best exercise for people suffering from lower back pain. If you have back problems, avoiding sit-ups and focusing on activities that strengthen your abs without straining them is better.

Tip: Try planking

Doing a plank is a great way to work on core strength without putting unnecessary pressure on the back. It’s also an exercise you can do anywhere, so it’s perfect for people with back pain who cannot make it to the gym often. Start with an incline plank and make sure you can control your lumbar spine position before progressing to a full plank. A good thing to remember is that your gluteal and stomach muscles are meant to work together whilst holding the neutral position of a plank.

3. Crunches

Crunches are a common exercise for the abs and are very similar to sit-ups. Crunches can also be problematic if you have a herniated or bulging disc. This is because crunches isolate the core and lower back flexion movement more than sit-ups do and can put more stress on the lumbar discs.

You should also avoid doing crunches if you have pinched nerves in your spine—a condition where surrounding tissues or bones compress nerve roots.

We discussed spinal disc injuries and nerve impingement at length in our blogs and on our social media, so if you want to know more, we have plenty of information on the topic.

The best way to determine whether these conditions may be causing discomfort is by seeing an osteopath or another trusted physical therapist.

Tip: Try side plank

Side planks are excellent for strengthening your core muscles and reducing back pain. They strengthen your abdominals including your obliques and can really help give more dynamic stability to your lower back.

A great way to progress the side plank is to add spinal twists when you feel strong and controlled enough. These will really get your abdominal muscles firing!

4. Leg Press

Another exercise to take caution is the leg press if you have lower back pain. This exercise is not inherently bad for the lower back, but we often see patients go too hard too soon due to the ‘supported position’ of a leg press.

When doing a leg press, maintain a strong starting position of the back and core throughout the exercise and don’t add more weight than your back is comfortable with.

If you are suffering sharp pain from a herniated disc or have leg pain linked to your back pain, take particular caution with this exercise. It is easiest to ask your osteopath and assess your body’s pain levels after moderate loading.

Tip: Try squats

Squats are a great alternative to leg presses as they work the same muscles without putting pressure on your spine. Start with body weight squats and progress to weight squats when your lower back is ready.

Remember, heavy weightlifting can compress the discs in your lower back, so it’s important to consult your healthcare professional before starting this exercise program.

5. Twisting Exercises

When it comes to exercises that can cause back pain, twisting is a common culprit. Twisting movements pressure your spine’s discs and aggravate bulges or injuries, leading to sciatica and severe pain.

Twisting is a common daily movement that we often see as a cause of lower back injuries, whether lifting groceries out of the back of the car or stacking shelves at work.

As a result, we want to strengthen the muscles associated with this movement, but spinal twists may be too much if your back is already sore. Try them again once your lumbar spine and abdominal muscles feel slightly stronger.

Tip: Try dead bug

The dead bug exercise is excellent for beginners, as it allows you to build muscle mass and strength in your core without putting pressure on your spine. An added benefit of the dead bug exercise is a nice chest stretch as the upper body and arms extend backwards.

6. Superman Back Extensions

Patients with lower back pain that is currently flaring should avoid types of exercises like the superman. Superman is an excellent exercise for building your back and gluteal muscles, but it can put too much pressure on your spine.

Tip: Try bird dog

The bird dog exercise is an excellent alternative to the superman exercise. It focuses on your back and stomach muscles but does not put as much pressure on your spine.

It also takes very little space or equipment to perform bird dog exercises at home, making them ideal for beginners.

7. Heavy Weightlifting

As we discussed in the section on the leg press, heavily weighted exercise is another exercise that may not be ideal if you have low back pain. The problem with heavy weightlifting is that it puts too much pressure on your spinal discs and can lead to injury or aggravation of disc or nerve pain. Instead, try using lighter weights with higher repetitions.

Tip: Try front foot elevated reverse lunge

The front foot elevated reverse lunge is an excellent exercise for the glutes and hamstrings. It also strengthens your quads, lower back and core muscles.

This exercise allows you to do squats with less pressure on your spine. This can be a great alternative if you notice increased muscle soreness in the lower back or leg muscles after performing traditional squats.

8. Rigorous and High-impact Activities

As with all exercises, try to avoid activities that cause pain. If you have lower back pain, avoid strenuous and high-impact activities such as running, jumping, and playing contact sports like basketball and football. These activities can strain your back and cause further damage.

When returning to these exercises, especially running, try to start on flatter surfaces to avoid too much compressional load. Running on the flat is much easier for your back than running on hills.

Tip: Try low-impact aerobics exercises

Low-impact aerobics exercises can benefit your overall health without hurting your back. These exercises improve cardiovascular health, burn calories, and help strengthen your core muscles. Some examples include water aerobics, pilates and yoga.

If it hurts, don't do it!

If you’re experiencing lower back pain while exercising above, you must talk to a healthcare worker, such as an osteopath. An osteopath may recommend activities that are gentle on the lower back.

The key to preventing and treating lower back pain is to find the right exercises for you. If you have any questions about your back or muscle injuries, contact us or visit our clinic on the North Shore of Sydney.


Exercise is essential to good health and a strong back. Weight loss, enhanced strength, flexibility, and increased stamina are all benefits of regular exercise. It can also prevent injuries by strengthening the muscles around your joints and discs.

When done correctly and with proper supervision, exercise can help prevent back pain. But before you begin any exercise program, consult a qualified healthcare professional first to ensure it’s safe for you and will help you reach your health goals.