Lower back pain – exercises to avoid

Strong back muscles are the support for a pain-free and healthy lower back and therefore need to be exercised to remain strong and flexible. The greatest good one can do to protect your lower back from injury or to protect a lower back injury from degenerating is to exercise the supporting back muscles with a good exercise routine.

Not all exercises are beneficial for your back and especially if you have a lower back disc injury or sciatica, there are certain popular exercises that should be avoided altogether. Some exercises put pressure on the spine and can cause or aggravate the injury to your lower back. Exercises that involve twisting and lifting or extreme aerobics like aerobic high jumps that jolt the spine should be avoided. Rather keep to an exercise routine advised by your doctor or physiotherapist.


To begin with, you should avoid certain stretching exercises the most common of which are the following

1.Touching toes figure-37266_640-1

Touching toes standing with legs straight is an unnatural way of relieving a back pain or injury it can overstretch hamstring and back muscles.

2.Touching toes doing alternate twists.

Any twisting action especially bent over is always risky.

Rather keep to the exercise stretching routine already mentioned on this site. https://lowbackmaintenance.com/exercises


The following exercises should be avoided, if you have a low back injury, these exercises will aggravate and cause discomfort and pain to the immediate site of the injury.

1.Sit ups Any form of sit-ups where you lift your back completely off the floor or bench places tremendous strain on the lower back muscles and the spine.abdominal-998836_640

2. Alternate elbow to knee touches – Lifting your back off the ground to touch your left knee with your right elbow and vice versa places great stress on the lower back spine.abdominal-1203880_640

Any exercise lying down on your back that involves lifting both legs off the ground places great pressure on the spine, the most common are the following

3. Leg raises –  lifting both legs off the floor.

4.Scissors- crossing your legs in a lifted position in an alternating scissors action.

5. Jack Knives- Lifting your back and legs at the same time from a lying position to touch your feet with your hands.


6. Running –  all sports activity involving running, jumping or aerobics can aggravate a lower back injury because of the jolting action on the spine.

7. Jogging – Long distance runners sometimes develop lower back problems due to the consistent pounding action, this is a definite no if you have a lower back problem.

If you have strong lower back muscles and you include some running or jogging in your routine, keep it to a minimum and make sure you wear decent running shoes that cushion the jolting action.

Gym exercises

Using weights is a great way to build up your body strength including building strong back muscles but if you have a lower back problem there are definite exercises to avoid. Always use a kidney belt especially if you have a lower back problem and ask gym staff for help with applying the correct training techniques.

Avoid exercises that include heavy weights on your shoulders and that place great strain on your back and spine, some exercises require great technique and can cause further serious injury if done incorrectly especially the following crossfit-534615_640

1. Squats

2. Lunges

Avoid exercises done standing or lifting above your head without back support as this puts unnecessary strain on your lower back, common exercises include

3. Shoulder press standing – with barbell or dumbbellsfunctional-606568_640

4. Bicep curls standing 

5. Barbell or dumbbell front extensions 

Avoid any exercises bent over and or with your legs straight

6. Deadlift straight leg

7. Bent over rows

These two exercises using exercise machine equipment should always be avoided as they place great strain on the lower back vertebrae.

8. Vertical leg press  –  On your back pressing up at almost 90 degrees                                                front extensions

9. Hyperextensions – The reverse of a sit up.

All exercises done using the arms should be done seated with back or front support to relieve the pressure on the spine.








  1. Having had lower back injuries for years I certainly am aware of the exercises that cannot be done. People think that some of them will make it better but it does not. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I’ve got back pain on my resume. Many years ago, I had herniated discs at L5 S1 (with the next couple thrown out of alignment as a result) and a pinched sciatic nerve. It was awful.

    The thing that started to turn it for me was getting into the pool, and at first, just standing still and swooshing the water with my arms, which forced my core muscles to engage. That was all I was allowed to do at first, and then I worked up to doing some regular core-strengthening exercises and, eventually, regular exercise again.

    Now, I’m stronger and more flexible than ever. But I pay very close attention to my core and back and am very careful not to strain it. I find that the more gentle stretching I do, the better I feel.

    I hope your site helps people with back pain. I’ve been there and I don’t wish it on anyone.

    Best wishes,


    • Ivo

      Hi Kevin

      Thanks for your comment and my apologies for the late delay in repling
      Swimming is a great for lower back problems,my future posts will include advanced alternative exercises
      for those with low back injuries

  3. You covered a lot of exercises not to do. This would have been a lot more useful if you had given some examples of exercises to do. Could you get some in your next post perhaps?

  4. Julie

    Great info!
    I have three bad discs in my lower back and I thought I knew what I could do and couldn’t.
    I did not realize leg raises, scissors and bent over rows could be problematic. They never seemed bad, but that may be why I keep injuring my back when I exercise.
    Thank you so much!

  5. Hey, I’ve been doing these exercises for my middle region all my life. Managed to keep the core stable but never felt really strong. Will have to revise my exercise plan. Great article. Chris

    • Ivo

      Hi Chris sorry for the late reply,these exercises are mainly bad especially if you have a lower back injury ,I
      will be concentrating on my next post on exercises that will increase mid core strength.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *