Lower back strength is mandatory for a strong, pain-free, resilient low back. The best lower back strength training involves working every muscle that contributes to overall lower back health, while building sheer strength throughout the core and hips.
Lower Back Strength Training Principles
Know The Muscles:
There are a number of muscles that contribute to a strong core and bulletproof lower back. Every one of these muscles need to be strong in order for the lower back to perform at its full capacity. If your lower back perpetually falls into spasm or pain, there is likely weakness in one or more of these muscles.
These muscles include (but are not limited to): Quadratus Lumborum (QL), Abdominals, Obliques, Glutes, and Lats.
Do Not Ignore Endurance:
Lower back strength training is only one part of the equation. If lower back strength was the only piece, strength athletes would rarely injure their lower backs. One who can deadlift 600 pounds with perfect form should be immune to lower back injuries, right?
Wrong. Do not neglect endurance. The least amount of injuries happen in the first quarter, and it is not due to lack of strength. A bulletproof lower back can withstand stress over a long period of time and not get fatigued. Make sure to include exercises that train the lower back to withstand stress for time.
Look At Core Strength Holistically:
Core strength is absolutely critical in building a strong, bulletproof lower back. However, core strength can be looked at through a completely wrong lens. The "Core" includes the abdominals, obliques, QL, lower back muscles, glutes, hip flexors, and everything that assists in keeping the torso upright.
The most common way to overlook core strength is to view the abs (especially the frontal Rectus Abdominis) as the sole member of the core. The abs are only part of the picture of lower back strength training - refer to the muscles above for a more inclusive picture of the core.
Common Mistakes With Lower Back Strength Training
Using Partial Range Of Motion:
When performing a lower back strength training program, it is important to understand the benefit of training for the 23 hours a day you are not in the gym. One way this gets overlooked is with training partial range of motion. Partial range of motion allows for heavy weights and great "pumps", but can result in extreme tightness when the muscles come back to their resting state.
It is for this reason that I recommend using complete range of motion when lower back strength training. This is especially important for lower body lifts that work the posterior chain like RDLs, hyperextensions, and goodmornings. When using full range of motion in these lifts - feeling a deep stretch at the bottom of each rep - you will have way more range of motion and ability outside of the gym.
As mentioned above, training lower back strength is only part of the picture. Building up to high duration in movements like planks and suitcase carries can provide a new level of lower back resilience.
Training Through Pain:
In short: do NOT train through pain. Lower back strength training should not be painful. Aggravating the lower back will not make the pain go away. If your lower back is in pain while training, take a step back, perform deep tissue massage using QL Claw, and live to fight another day.
A devil's advocate may say "I thought strength training was supposed to be uncomfortable. If I quit every time I felt pain I'd never get anywhere!". This brings up a great point, and a difference between muscle fatigue and deep pain. Muscle fatigue is great, and even recommended. You should definitely train muscles to the point of burning fatigue to grow. However, a deep back ache will not be made better by training through it. Trust me, I tried to for years with zero success.
Lower Back Strength Training Program
Lower back strength training can be intimidating and overwhelming. If it appears simple, there are likely areas that you are neglecting. A thorough, complete lower back strength training program will work all muscles that contribute to low back strength and health, while building endurance and stiffness in the right places.
Fortunately, at Back Muscle Solutions we developed a comprehensive lower back strength training program - Back Of Steel - to take the guess work out of the equation. Back Of Steel contains value-packed pages about back strength training principles, exercises, exclusive video content, and an actual lower back strengthening program. The Back Of Steel program is a 3 day per week, 15 minute per day supplement to your current routine, designed to build serious strength in the stabilizers and muscles that your lower back needs to be resilient. Check out the Back Of Steel lower back strength training program at the link below!