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One Great Answer: What Are The Best Exercises For Lower Back Pain?’s "One GREAT Answer" series takes your health and fitness questions to the world’s smartest experts.

I suffer from back pain. [What are] the best exercises for a weak lower back?

–Karen H., via Facebook

The Answer

If you experience lower back pain or have a weak back, the best thing you can do is strengthen the small, stabilizing muscles around the vertebrae while placing minimal stress on the spine itself. There are three basic exercises that do exactly that.

Front Plank

Lie on your belly with your elbows directly under your shoulders. Engage your stomach and lift your midsection off the ground, forming a straight line from head to heel.

Side Plank

Lie on your side with your upper body propped up by your elbow. Take a breath, then lift your hips off the ground, driving your outside hip toward the sky until your body forms a straight line. Hold this position and then repeat on the other side.

Bird Dog

Start with your hands and knees on the floor. Keeping your hips even and your spine neutral, lift your left arm and right leg until both are parallel to the floor. Hold for a breath, then return to the starting position with a slow, controlled motion. Repeat the movement with the right arm and left leg. That’s one rep. Perform five to 10.

While many trainers advise holding each of these positions for extended periods, you can instead try shorter bursts. Five seconds is plenty. You can build up to longer holds over time.

About the Expert

Mike Robertson, MS, CSCS, is the co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training and founder of

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About the Author

Brian Sabin is LIVESTRONG.COM's content manager. He is a writer, editor and video producer who spent five years working for "Runner's World," where his series "26.2 or Die: The Matt Long Story" won a Webby Award for "Best Sports Video: People's Choice." He resides in California.

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