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Best Exercises for a Stiff Low Back


Jan 18, 2023
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Are you struggling with low back stiffness? Sitting, walking, lifting weights, and so many other activities suck when your low back doesn’t move as you want it to! In this article, I will share my favorite movements to unlock a stiff low back!

Reverse Hypers​

Often, a stiff low back can be a by-product of your body realizing it isn’t strong enough to perform the tasks you are asking it to perform. So we’re starting our low back stiffness exercises with an excellent movement for low back strength and mobility, the Reverse Hyper created by strength legend Louie Simmons.
Check out our Bulletproof Back Builder program for more movements to build lower back strength.
The following video shows how to perform this exercise on a Rogue Scout Reverse Hyper as well as a few DIY options if you don’t have a RH available.

Cat Cow with a Band​

The Cat-Cow is a staple for spine mobility. But often, athletes perform this by moving their spine from where it already moves well and not where it is stiff. Adding a band to the stiffest parts of your spine gives your body a little tactile feedback on where to focus the movement. As you perform this variation, focus on pressing your back into the band to maximize your mobility work.

Side Lying Lumbar Rotations​

Sometimes stiff and/or painful backs don’t tolerate much loading or movement. In that case, my favorite starting point is these gentle lumbar rotations. Lock the top leg down, and then think of pulling the top shoulder back towards the ground behind you. For even better results, exhale as you rotate back to use breathing to mobilize your spine further.

Jefferson Curls​

Jefferson Curls are my all-time favorite movement to unlock a stiff lower back. In this movement, we use a light load to assist in moving the spine through range of motion to create mobility and resilience with loading out of “optimal positioning”.
When performing Jefferson Curls, imagine rounding your back one segment at a time off of a wall until you get into full flexion and then slowly reversing the movement.
Podcast: Four Reasons to Use Jefferson Curls on the PTonICE Daily Show

Reverse Jefferson Curls​

The Jefferson Curl requires a lot of focus and motor control to perform correctly. When I want to reduce these demands, I step back to the Reverse Jefferson Curl, which simplifies this great movement. My favorite cue is to exhale as you drive your hips up and inhale as they lower down.

Jefferson Curl Rotations​

Our third Jefferson Curl variation focuses on the thoracolumbar junction, where the upper and lower back meet. This area is a widespread area of stiffness, and addressing it can make a world of difference for athletes with a stiff lower back.

Sciatic Flossing​

Finally, some athletes with a stiff low back are dealing with more nerve tension than actual back issues. For them, variations of nerve glides can provide significant relief. There are many ways to mobilize your sciatic nerve, by my most commonly used variation is this Sciatic Flossing exercise.