» Blog
» Lower Back Rehab Exercises

Lower Back Rehab Exercises

Lower Back Rehab Exercises

Lower back pain affects about 80% of adults at some point during their lifetime. It is one of the most common medical complaints. Back pain stems from muscle strains, ligament sprains, poor posture, disc injuries, arthritis, stenosis, pregnancy, and other causes. 

While rest and medication may provide initial relief, therapeutic exercise is the keystone of an effective back rehabilitation program. The right exercises can speed healing, strengthen the back, improve mobility, retrain proper body mechanics, and prevent future back pain episodes.

Regarding personalized care for your lower back pain, Physical Therapy in Aurora, IL, is your trusted partner. With a dedicated team of experienced professionals, we offer specialized back pain therapy in Aurora tailored to your unique needs.

A comprehensive physical therapy evaluation is the first step in developing an effective lower back rehabilitation program. These examination findings allow your physical therapist to design the ideal exercise for lower back pain and dysfunctions. 

Lower back rehabilitation exercises can be really effective. Here are some common therapeutic lower back exercises that may be included in a lower back rehabilitation program:

Knee Rotations

Knee rotations help mobilize the hip joint and warm up the muscles of the hips and lower back. Rotating the legs engages the hip rotators through their full range of motion. This exercise can be useful in your lower back rehabilitation program as part of the warm-up to prepare for therapeutic movements.

To perform knee rotations, follow these steps:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent at 90-degree angles and feet resting on the floor hip-width apart. Bend your arms with your hands resting at your sides.
  2. Keeping your feet planted, slowly rotate your knees together toward one side, opening the hips as wide as comfortably possible.
  3. Then, rotate your knees all the way toward the opposite side, opening up the hips in that direction.
  4. Continuously rotate from side to side for 1-2 minutes, bringing the knees together and then dropping them wide open to stretch the hips.
  5. Move slowly and smoothly while keeping your upper body relaxed throughout the mobilization.
  6. Breathe normally as you rotate the legs side to side, engaging the hip rotators.

Clam Shells

Clamshells specifically strengthen the hip abductors and external rotators, including the gluteus medius, piriformis, and other deep hip muscles. One of the most valuable components of rehab for lower back pain is learning proper lifting, sitting, bending, and transition techniques to avoid future back injuries.

Weakness in these muscles can affect hip and lower back alignment. Clamshells target these smaller stabilizers.

To do clam shells, follow these steps:

  1. Lie on your side with your knees bent at 90-degree angles and hips stacked. Keep feet touching each other.
  2. Maintaining contact between your feet, lift your top knee upward while keeping your hips stacked and steady. Don't let the hips roll back.
  3. Lift the knee as high as you can, feeling the deep gluteal muscles engage to open up the top knee.
  4. Hold at the top for 2 seconds. Slowly lower back to the starting position.
  5. Make sure to keep your pelvis still; do not let it rotate backward. Avoid using momentum.
  6. Perform 10-15 repetitions on one side, then switch to do the same number on the other side. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed.
  7. Breathe normally throughout the exercise, stabilizing the core.

Wall Squats

Wall squats are a cornerstone exercise for increasing lower back strength and general spinal stability. This exercise, which is commonly suggested in lower back rehabilitation programs, works major muscle groups such as the lower back, glutes, and thighs, promoting improved posture and lowering the risk of back discomfort.

To execute wall squats, follow these steps:

  1. Stand against a flat, strong wall.
  2. Lower your body slowly, simulating the motion of sitting in an imaginary chair while keeping your back straight.
  3. Hold the squat position for at least 30 seconds.
  4. Maintain appropriate form while controlling your breathing
  5. Exit the squat by softly pushing your heels and straightening your legs.


The Superman exercise specifically targets the muscles in your lower back, particularly the erector spinal muscles that run along your spine. 

To enhance the strength and endurance of muscles by activating them, lift both your arms and legs off the ground simultaneously. Additionally, this exercise engages your glutes and hamstrings, further bolstering the strength of your entire lower body.

To perform Superman, follow these steps:

  1. Lie face down with your arms stretched in front of you and your legs straightened
  2. Lift both your arms and legs off the ground at the same time, concentrating on your lower back muscles
  3. Hold this position for a few seconds.
  4. Repeat the exercise by lowering your arms and legs to the ground
  5. Maintain a neutral neck posture and activate your core muscles throughout the workout.

Pelvic Tilts

Pelvic tilting exercises in the sagittal plane are commonly used to restore lumbar spine alignment in individuals suffering from persistent lower back pain (LBP). 

One of the primary causes of LBP has been recognized as a posture that supports lumbar lordosis. It is critical to limit the usage of the posture that causes lumbar lordosis while treating lower back pain. 

To perform Superman, follow these steps:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor 
  2. Engage your abdominal muscles 
  3. Gradually tilt your pelvis upward as you exhale, forcing your lower back into the floor. 
  4. Hold this posture for a few seconds, feeling the stretch in your lower back.
  5. Exhale and return to the starting position.

Knee to Chest

The knee-to-chest exercise, also known as the knee-to-chest stretch, is a stretching movement primarily focused on the lower back and hip muscles. This exercise is intended to relieve lower back discomfort, improve flexibility, and increase the lower back and hip range of motion.

To perform Knee to Chest, follow these steps:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
  2.  Lie on your back with your legs outstretched to conduct the knee-to-chest exercise. 
  3. Bring one knee up to your chest slowly, clasping your hands around your shin or behind your thigh.
  4.  Hold for around 20 seconds, experiencing a mild stretch in your lower back and hip.
  5.  Release and repeat the stretch with the other leg. 
  6. This exercise can be repeated on each leg numerous times, ensuring a moderate and controlled movement to minimize tension. 


The cat-camel exercise, also known as the cat-cow stretch, is a yoga-inspired movement in which you alternately arch and round your back. This exercise is well-known for its potential to promote spine flexibility, alleviate lower back discomfort, and increase general mobility.

To perform Cat-Camel, follow these steps:

  1. Start in a tabletop posture on your hands and knees.
  2.  Arch your back as you inhale, elevating your head and tailbone towards the ceiling (the "cat" position).
  3.  Exhale while rounding your back and tucking your chin and tailbone into a concave curve (the "camel" pose). 
  4. For a few minutes, alternate between these postures while breathing. 
  5. Concentrate on the movement's smoothness, letting your spine extend and relax with each breath.

Glute Bridge

Glute bridge rotations are a dynamic exercise that engages your core muscles as well as your glutes, making them a great addition to your training program. This exercise improves hip mobility while strengthening the muscles surrounding your spine, providing stability and balance. 

Glute bridge rotations are very good for people who want to strengthen their core strength, increase their lower body flexibility, and minimize their risk of back problems.

To perform Glut Bridge, follow these steps:

  1. Lie on your back, legs bent, feet flat on the floor.
  2.  Raise your hips into a bridge position while activating your glutes and core.
  3.  Rotate your hips to one side without lowering them while in the bridge, then return to the center and rotate to the other side. 
  4. Continue in this motion, concentrating on controlled motions and activating your core the entire time. 

Your training regimen must include back workouts and targeted lower back stretches for overall spinal health. Exercises such as Superman, Clam Shells, and Wall Squats primarily target your back muscles, developing strength and resilience.


A comprehensive therapeutic exercise program overseen by a skilled physical therapist, chiropractor, or back rehabilitation specialist provides the most effective, lasting relief from lower back pain. The tailored program addresses your unique deficits and dysfunctions. 

Appropriately progressing the exercises retrains the back for real-world function and prevents future injuries. With motivation and commitment to the active rehab approach, you can get back to all the activities important to your life.

If you have lingering back pain or dysfunction, our rehabilitation experts at Physical Therapy Advantage in Aurora can get you back on track. Our licensed physical therapists are specialized in rehab lower back pain by using advanced manual techniques and progressive therapeutic exercises. Experience lasting relief and improved performance.

COVID-19 Update: Due to the continued COVID-19 concerns we wanted to update everyone on our current policies. We are still considered to be an essential healthcare provider, but as of January 1, 2023...