Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Back pain health centre

Exercises to strengthen your back

NHS Choices Medical Reference

NHS Choices Logo

Exercises like walking and swimming are especially good for those with back pain. Get started with these exercises without even leaving the house. Inhale before each repetition of an exercise and exhale when performing each repetition.

Beginners

  • Ankle lifts     
    Lie on your back. Move ankles up and down. Repeat 10 times with each ankle.
  • Heel slides  
    Lie on your back. Keeping one leg straight, slowly bend and straighten the other leg at the knee, sliding the foot along the floor and back down again. Repeat 10 times on each leg.
  • Abdominal contraction
    Lie on your back with knees bent and hands resting below your ribs. Tighten abdominal muscles to squeeze ribs down towards your back. Be sure not to hold your breath. Hold for five seconds. Relax. Repeat 10 times.
  • Wall squats
    Stand with your back leaning against the wall. Walk feet 12 inches in front of body. Keep abdominal muscles tight while slowly bending both knees 45 degrees (or as far as you can go). Hold for five seconds. Slowly return to upright position. Repeat 10 times.
  • Heel raises
    Stand with your weight even on both feet. Slowly raise your heels up and down. Repeat 10 times.
  • Straight leg raises
    Lie on your back with one leg straight and one knee bent. Tighten your abdominal muscles to stabilise your lower back. Keep breathing and slowly lift your leg straight up about six to 12 inches and hold for one to five seconds. Lower leg slowly. Repeat 10 times. 

More advanced

  • Leg raises to strengthen back and hip muscles
    Lie on your stomach with your arms at your sides. Tighten the muscles in one leg and raise it up from the floor. Hold your leg up for a count of 10 and return it to the floor. Do the same with the other leg. Repeat five times with each leg.
  • Leg raises to strengthen stomach and hip muscles
    Lie on your back with your arms at your sides. Lift one leg off the floor. Hold your leg up for a count of 10 and return it to the floor. Do the same with the other leg. Repeat five times with each leg. If that's too difficult, keep one knee bent and your foot flat on the ground while raising the leg.
  • Half sit-ups to strengthen stomach muscles
    Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on floor. Slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor and reach with both hands toward your knees. Count to 10. Repeat five times. If this is too difficult, try sitting upright in a chair with your legs straight and extended at an angle to the floor. Lift one leg waist high. Slowly return your leg to the floor. Do the same with the other leg. Repeat five times with each leg.
  • Back leg swing to strengthen hip and back muscles
    Stand behind a chair with your hands on the back of the chair. Lift one leg back and up while keeping the knee straight. Return slowly. Repeat five times with each leg.
  • Exercises to decrease the strain on your back
    Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Raise your knees toward your chest. Place both hands under your knees and gently pull your knees as close to your chest as possible. Don't raise your head. Don't straighten your legs as you lower them. Start with five repetitions, several times a day.

Ask your GP for advice before starting any exercise programme.

Medical Review: September 06, 2008

Popular Slideshows & Tools on Boots WebMD

woman looking at pregnancy test
Early pregnancy symptoms
donut on plate
The truth about sugar addiction
fish n chips
Diarrhoea & more
man coughing
10 common allergy triggers
couple watching sunset
How much do you know?
hand extinguishing cigarette
13 best tips to stop smoking
woman washing face
Living and dealing with eczema
boy looking at broccoli
Quick tips for feeding picky eaters
bag of crisps
Food cravings that wreck your diet
dogs face
Workout with Fido
polka dot dress on hangar
Lose weight without dieting