Fitness Tips

6 Trainer-Approved Low-Impact Exercises That Give Your Back a Break

Tehrene Firman

Photo: Stocksy/Bonninstudio
High-impact exercises aren’t the easiest on your body. If you’re starting to feel it in your back and spine, it’s time to give your body a break with low-impact exercises that are gentle enough yet still totally effective.

“The reason to stay away from high-impact exercises like burpees, as well as movements that include heavy and repetitive rotation like Russian twists, is to limit the risk associated with engaging the spine and the muscles that support it—aka the core,” says iFit trainer Gideon Akande. “This is especially important for HIIT workouts where fatigue and extended durations can cause the form breakdowns, leading to potential injury.”

In order to reduce or avoid back pain and inflammation, Holly Roser, a personal trainer and owner of Holly Roser Fitness, says incorporating back- and spine-friendly low-impact exercises is key. These are the best trainer-approved options to start with.

Low-impact exercises that give your back a break

1. Glute bridges

Doing glute bridges is great for your back. In fact, they can even help with lower back and hip pain.

How to do it:

  1. Lie down on your back on a mat with your knees bent and legs hip-width apart.
  2. Contract your abs, press your heels into the floor, and squeeze your glutes as you slowly raise your hips. Avoid pressing your hips too high to avoid overarching your back.
  3. Pause, then gently lower your body back down to the starting position.

2. Bird dog

Bird dogs are also great for your back and can help with any pain you’re experiencing.

How to do it:

  1. Start on all fours.
  2. Kick one leg straight behind you and reach the opposite arm forward.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.

3. Clam shells

Aside from strengthening your gluteus medius—the outer edge of your butt—clam shells are also great at fixing a glute imbalance, which can cause lower back pain.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your side with your hips and shoulders stacked.
  2. Slowly lift and lower your top knee, keeping your feet together.
  3. Complete 12 reps on each side.

4. Forearm plank

Forearm planks keep your core strong while also strengthening your back, reducing your risk of injury.

How to do it:

  1. Get into a low plank on your forearms with your elbows directly under your shoulders. Your body should be in a straight line.
  2. As you hold, make sure you slightly tuck your pelvis underneath you, which engages your abs.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat.

5. Squats

Get this: Squats can help reduce and prevent back pain. Just make sure you keep the correct form when doing them.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet wide in a strong stance.
  2. Putting the weight in your heels, slowly lower down into a squat. Make sure your chest is lifted and you’re squeezing your glutes the entire time.
  3. Complete 12 reps.

6. Lunges

Like squats, Akande says lunges are also a spine-friendly exercise you can do on the regular.

How to do it:

  1. Starting with your feet together, step one foot forward.
  2. Keeping a straight torse, lower down into a lunge. Your front leg should be at a 90-degree angle, and your back leg should be hovering a few inches from the floor.
  3. Lift and push off your lunging leg to return to your starting position.
  4. Complete 12 reps on one leg, then repeat on the opposite side.

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