Core Training Exercises for Back Pain

Strength training for your core muscles has many benefits. Not only can it help relieve back pain, but the Mayo Clinic maintains that a strong core can improve posture, make other movements and exercises easier and tone your stomach and ab muscles. Most core workouts don’t require any special equipment and are easy to do in your own home, so they’re easy to incorporate into traditional exercise routines.

Side Plank

Include the side plank in your routine to gradually build strength in core muscles. According to Stuart McGill, a spine biomechanics professor at Canada’s University of Waterloo, all core muscles need to be balanced to support the spine properly and allow it to handle pressure and weight. McGill recommends choosing exercises like the side plank to work multiple core muscles instead of just isolating the abs.

To do a side plank, begin from a traditional plank. Lie on your stomach on a mat or towel, and place your elbows directly under your shoulders. Form a triangle with your elbows by locking your hands above them, keeping your forearms flat on the floor. Lift with your core muscles, pull your abs in and put pressure on your toes and forearms to hold your body up in a long line from your shoulders to your feet.

Transition to a side plank by separating your hands and bending your right elbow at a 90-degree angle on the mat. Roll to your left (so that your left hip is upright), stack your left foot on top of your right, and use your forearm and the side of your right foot to hold up your body in a straight line. Pause, return to start and then repeat the move on the right side.


Try quadrupeds to strengthen your whole core, from your lower abs up to your back and shoulders. To do a quadruped, position yourself on all fours. Focus on beginning all movements from your core and centering your balance there. Slowly, extend your right arm forward at the same time that you extend your left leg straight back. Hold the move for a few seconds, and return to start. Gather your balance, and repeat the move on the other side by extending your left arm and right leg. Do as many reps as you comfortably can with correct form.


Do a set of crunches to target abs along with other core muscles. When done properly, crunches won’t strain the back and neck, so they’re a good choice of exercise for people with chronic back pain.

For a crunch, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms over your chest or bend your elbows and place your hands behind your head near the nape of your neck. Make sure your spine is supported, and avoid straining your back and neck by always keeping your eyes on the ceiling. Moving from your core, lift your torso a few inches, pause and return to start.

About this Author

Carly Schuna is a Wisconsin-based professional writer, editor and copy editor/proofreader. She has worked with hundreds of pieces of fiction, nonfiction, children’s literature, feature stories, and corporate content. Her expertise on food, cooking, nutrition and fitness information comes from years of in-depth study on those and other health topics.