8 Best Dumbbell Exercises for Strengthening Lower Back

Lower Back Dumbbell Exercises

The lower back is involved in various activities that we do in our daily lives, from sitting in a chair to picking up an object from the floor.

A healthy lower back helps improve functional fitness, athletic and lifting performance, and posture and minimizes the risk of injuries.

You can bolster your lower spine with several workouts using a variety of equipment, but if you’re looking for dumbbell-specific exercises, this article is for you.

In this article, I’ve shared the best exercises for those who have been training for a while and want to buttress their lower spine with dumbbells only.

Pros and Cons of Training Lower Back with Dumbbells

Advantages

  • You can use dumbbells to train your lower back from all angles because they allow you to perform exercises while lying on the floor, sitting on the bench, or standing on your feet.
  • With dumbbells, you can also do unilateral exercises, such as single-leg deadlift, bird dog, and lateral hip raises, which help build a firm and flexible lower back.
  • The added resistance of dumbbells helps build strength and muscularity around the lower back and its surrounding area.

Disadvantages

  • Doing lower back exercises with dumbbells can be hurtful, especially if you have poor spinal strength. In this case, it would be best to perform only bodyweight exercises.
  • Dumbbell exercises aren’t suitable for people with poor balance and hip flexibility.

8 Best Lower Back Dumbbell Exercises for Strength and Mobility

  1. Good Morning
  2. Bird Dog
  3. DB Hyperextension
  4. Glute Bridge
  5. Romanian Deadlift
  6. Dumbbell Superman
  7. Single-leg Deadlift
  8. Lateral Hip Raise

These exercises are backed by research and studies that have shown a positive impact on lower back health.1 Ko KJ, Ha GC, Yook YS, Kang SJ. Effects of 12-week lumbar stabilization exercise and sling exercise on lumbosacral region angle, lumbar muscle strength, and pain scale of patients with chronic low back pain. J Phys Ther Sci. 2018;30(1):18-22. doi:10.1589/jpts.30.18

Let’s see the benefits of each exercise and how to do them step-by-step.

1. Good Morning

The Good Morning is a strength and rehabilitation exercise that involves bending at the hips. It effectively stretches the posterior chain muscles and helps bolster the hamstrings and lower back.2 Vigotsky AD, Harper EN, Ryan DR, Contreras B. Effects of load on good morning kinematics and EMG activity. PeerJ. 2015;3:e708. Published 2015 Jan 6. doi:10.7717/peerj.708

About Exercise:

  • Primary Target Muscles: Lower Back and Hamstrings
  • Secondary Muscles Involved: Glutes and Abs
  • Equipment Needed: One Dumbbell Only
  • Experience Require: Intermediate
  • Main Goal: Develop a strong and flexible posterior chain.

Exercise Instructions:

  • Setup: Grab a dumbbell, hold it firmly between your arms, and stand straight with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Execution: Slightly bend your knees, push your hips back, and lean forward until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings.
  • Finish: Hold for a couple of seconds, and then slowly raise yourself in the beginning position.
  • Optimal Reps and Sets: Three sets of 5 reps for beginners and three sets of 10 reps for experienced.

Supplementary Tips:

  • Perform a warm-up set without weights to prepare your lower back area for dumbbell good morning.
  • Avoid bending too much, as it can put unnecessary stress on the lower back and increase the risk of strain.

2. Bird Dog

Bird Dog Plank

The Bird Dog is a strength and mobility exercise that involves sitting on all fours and lifting one leg and arm at a time.

It reinforces multiple muscles simultaneously, including the lower back, hamstrings, and abs, and helps promote lower body functionality.3 Calatayud J, Escriche-Escuder A, Cruz-Montecinos C, et al. Tolerability and Muscle Activity of Core Muscle Exercises in Chronic Low-back Pain. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(19):3509. Published 2019 Sep 20. doi:10.3390/ijerph16193509

It is also one of three lower back exercises recommended by Dr. Stuart McGill, a prominent professor of emeritus (Spine Biomechanics) at the University of Waterloo, to ease back pain.4 Low Back Exercises: Stuart McGill’s Big Three (2018) – American Council of Exercise

About Exercise:

  • Primary Target Muscles: Lower Back, Glutes, and Hamstrings
  • Secondary Muscles Involved: Abdominals and Shoulders
  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells and an Exercise Mat
  • Experience Require: Advanced
  • Main Goal: Increase strength, balance, and pliability in the lower body.

Exercise Instructions:

  • Setup: Sit on all fours with your arms straight below your shoulders and hips aligned with your knees. Brace your core and keep your back as flat as possible.
  • Execution: Grab a dumbbell in your right hand and raise your arm in front of you and your left leg behind you simultaneously until they are parallel to the floor.
  • Finish: Hold for five seconds and then return to the start and repeat on the opposite side.
  • Optimal Reps and Sets: Three sets of 5 reps on each side. It is only for experienced exercisers.

Supplementary Tips:

  • Keep your core tight and glutes engaged throughout the movement.
  • Use dumbbells that are light enough to hold them for ten seconds at least.
  • Maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.

3. Dumbbell Hyperextension

Hyperextension is a posterior chain exercise that increases lower body muscle strength, especially the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.

Studies have also shown back extension enhances spinal range of motion and muscular strength and improves overall fitness performance.5 Yaprak Y. The effects of back extension training on back muscle strength and spinal range of motion in young females. Biol Sport. 2013;30(3):201-206. doi:10.5604/20831862.1047500

About Exercise:

  • Primary Target Muscles: Glutes and Lower Back
  • Secondary Muscles Involved: Hamstrings
  • Equipment Needed: Hyperextension Bench and a Dumbbell
  • Experience Require: Intermediate
  • Main Goal: Increase erector spinal strength and thicken and help build proportional glutes.

Exercise Instructions:

  • Setup: Get on a 45-degree incline hip extension bench and position yourself in a proper manner. Grab a dumbbell with your hands and hold it close to your chest. That’s your starting position.
  • Execution: Tighten your hips, thighs, and glutes, and bend at your hips to lower your torso until you feel a stretch in your hamstring muscles.
  • Finish: Hold for a couple of seconds and then slowly raise your torso until your face hip is extended.
  • Optimal Reps and Sets: Perform three to four sets of 10 to 15 reps.

Supplementary Tips:

  • This exercise aims to increase lower back stability, not muscle gain. That’s why you need to use a light dumbbell and perform with a proper form.
  • Try not to arch your back at the top. Sometimes, extending the hips too much can put excess strain on the spine and cause pain.

4. Glute Bridge

The glute bridge is an excellent way to build strength in your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back simultaneously.

Combining this exercise with lumbar segmental stabilization exercises reduces low back pain and strengthens the lumbar muscle in chronic low back pain patients, a study published by the “Journal of Physical Therapy Science” suggested.6 Jeong UC, Sim JH, Kim CY, Hwang-Bo G, Nam CW. The effects of gluteus muscle strengthening exercise and lumbar stabilization exercise on lumbar muscle strength and balance in chronic low back pain patientsJ Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(12):3813-3816. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.3813, 7 Lehecka, B J et al. “BUILDING A BETTER GLUTEAL BRIDGE: ELECTROMYOGRAPHIC ANALYSIS OF HIP MUSCLE ACTIVITY DURING MODIFIED SINGLE-LEG BRIDGES.” International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy vol. 12,4 (2017): 543-549

About Exercise:

  • Primary Target Muscles: Glutes
  • Secondary Muscles Involved: Lower Back, Hamstrings, and Abs
  • Equipment Needed: An Exercise Mat and a Dumbbell
  • Experience Require: Beginner
  • Main Goal: Strengthen glutes and help elevate lower back health.

Exercise Instructions:

  • Setup: Lie on the mat with your knees bent and feet firmly on the floor. Place a dumbbell on your hips and keep your abdominal muscles tight. That’s the starting position.
  • Execution: Lift your hips off the floor until your knees are in line with your chest.
  • Finish: Hold for five to ten seconds, then slowly lower your hips back on the floor.
  • Optimal Reps and Sets: Perform three sets of 15 reps each.

Supplementary Tips:

  • Your core should be tight throughout the movement.
  • Use your glutes and hamstring to thrust your hips.
  • Keep your feet around one foot away from your glutes to feel the optimal contraction.

5. Romanian Deadlift

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

The Dumbbell RDL is one of the deadlift variations that target the lower back and hamstrings and increase joint strength, bone density, and muscle coordination.

A study has shown that RDL doesn’t directly enhance lumbar extension torque, but it helps improve both spinal strength and 1RM.8Fisher J, Bruce-Low S, Smith D. A randomized trial to consider the effect of Romanian deadlift exercise on the development of lumbar extension strengthPhys Ther Sport. 2013;14(3):139-145. doi:10.1016/j.ptsp.2012.04.001 So, I recommend including it in your lower back training program.

About Exercise:

  • Primary Target Muscles: Hamstrings and Lower Back
  • Secondary Muscles Involved: Glutes and Abdominals
  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells Only
  • Experience Require: Intermediate
  • Main Goal: Build strong hammies and strengthen the lumbar muscles.

Exercise Instructions:

  • Setup: Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand upright with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your arms straight in front of your thighs with your palms facing in. That’s the start.
  • Execution: Pushing your hips back, bend your torso forward toward the floor until the dumbbells reach your shin height.
  • Finish: Pushing your heels onto the floor, extend your hips until your torso is upright.
  • Optimal Reps and Sets: Four sets of eight reps.

Supplementary Tips:

  • You can softly bend your knees while lowering the dumbbells.
  • Maintain a neutral spine position throughout the movement.
  • Keep the dumbbells close to your body during the entire exercise.

6. Dumbbell Superman

Lower Back Dumbbell Exercises

Superman involves lying on the floor and lifting your chest and leg simultaneously.

It is an excellent way to bolster erector spinae, glutes, and other posterior muscles and improve lower body functionality.

Research shows that performing Superman with other lumbar exercises helps not only in reducing the recurrence of low-back pain but also in restoring the function of the lumbar multifidus.9 Hwang YI, Park DJ. Comparison of lumbar multifidus thickness and perceived exertion during graded Superman exercises with or without an abdominal drawing-in maneuver in young adults. J Exerc Rehabil. 2018;14(4):628-632. Published 2018 Aug 24. doi:10.12965/jer.1836296.148

About Exercise:

  • Primary Target Muscles: Lower Back and Glutes
  • Secondary Muscles Involved: Hamstrings, Shoulders, and Upper Back
  • Equipment Needed: Baby Dumbbells and a Yoga Mat
  • Experience Require: Intermediate
  • Main Goal: Improve spinal stability and help fix poor posture

Exercise Instructions:

  • Setup: Lie prone on the floor with your legs straight behind you and arms extended in front of you. Grab a pair of light dumbbells and keep your head in a neutral position. That’s the beginning.
  • Execution: Raise both your arms and legs at the same time until you feel the contraction in your lower back
  • Finish: Hold for a moment, then return to the start.
  • Optimal Reps and Sets: Three sets of 6-8 reps with 3-4 seconds pause during each rep.

Supplementary Tips:

  • Perform each rep deliberately.
  • Use a light pair of dumbbells.
  • Avoid overextending your arms and legs.

7. Single-leg Deadlift

The single-leg deadlift involves grabbing dumbbells in each hand and raising one leg behind as you lean your torso forward. It activates multiple muscles simultaneously, including the lower back, and helps improve strength and balance in the lower body.

About Exercise:

  • Primary Target Muscles: Hamstrings and Lower Back
  • Secondary Muscles Involved: Abdominals and Glutes
  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells Only
  • Experience Require: Advanced
  • Main Goal: Improve mobility and even out muscle imbalance.

Exercise Instructions:

  1. Set-up: Grab one dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip and stand tall in the shoulder-width stance. Hold your arms straight in front of your thighs with palms facing your body.
  2. Execution: Pushing your hips back, lean forward (with a soft bend in your knee), and raise your right leg behind you until you feel a good contraction in your hamstrings.
  3. Finish: Hold for a moment, and then slowly extend your hips until you return to standing.
  4. Optimal Reps and Sets: Perform three sets of five reps per leg.

Supplementary Tips:

  • Generate strength through your feet to get into the upright position, as this effectively engages the hamstring muscles.

8. Lateral Bridge

The side bridge is one of three Stuart Mcgill recommended exercises for strengthening the lower back and reducing pain.

It is usually performed with body weight, but you can also do it with dumbbells to challenge your strength.

This exercise also engages oblique muscles and forges the core.

About Exercise:

  • Primary Target Muscles: Lower back and Obliques
  • Secondary Muscles Involved: Shoulder and Abs
  • Equipment Needed: A Yoga Mat and a Dumbbell
  • Experience Require: Intermediate
  • Main Goal: Strengthen obliques and bolster lower back.

Exercise Instructions:

  • Setup: Lay down on your right side with your forearm on the floor and your elbow underneath your shoulder. Bend your knees behind your glutes to 90 degrees. Hold a dumbbell with your left hand and place it on your side hip. That’s the start.
  • Execution: Lift your hips off the floor and hold them for five to ten seconds, depending on your strength.
  • Finish: Lower your hips back on the floor. Follow the same steps on your opposite side and repeat for the desired times.
  • Optimal Reps and Sets:

Supplementary Tips:

  • Keep your core, glute, and thighs engaged throughout the movement.
  • You can keep one of your legs on the floor to make this exercise easy.

Can You Do Dumbbell Workouts If You Have Lower Back Pain?

I recommend performing these dumbbell exercises primarily for strengthening the lower back, not if you have pain or injuries.

However, people with mild lower back pain can do Bird Dog, Superman, side hip raise, and glute bridge without weight because these exercises can help relieve pain.

Do The Dumbbell Exercises Help Decrease Waist Fat?

No, these exercises do not reduce lower back fat, but calorie restriction does. They only strengthen your lower spine. If you want to cut fat around your waise area, you have to lower your body fat through a calorie-restricted diet.

How Often Should You Train Your Lower Back?

You can train your lower back once or twice a week using dumbbells and twice or thrice a week without weights. Consistent training will help build a robust lower back. A strong back enhances your functional, athletic, and powerlifting performance, improves your quality of life, and minimizes the risk of injuries.

How to Program Dumbbell Lower Back Exercises into Your Workout Regime?

You can train your lower back on any day you like. I, for example, train my lower back twice per week, usually at the end of a push, pull, or leg day workout.

You can integrate the above exercises wherever and whenever they fit into your workout regime.

Summarizing it Up

To train your lower back effectively, you can do as many as eight exercises with dumbbells, from Good Morning, RDL, and Superman to Hyperextension, Bird-Dog, and Glute Bridge.

These exercises help build strength and muscular endurance, improve functional fitness, and reduce the risk of injuries.

However, I recommend these exercises only for strengthening purposes, not for treating pain or injuries. People with pain or injury should consult a doctor before doing any exercise I’ve outlined in this blog.

References

  • 1
    Ko KJ, Ha GC, Yook YS, Kang SJ. Effects of 12-week lumbar stabilization exercise and sling exercise on lumbosacral region angle, lumbar muscle strength, and pain scale of patients with chronic low back pain. J Phys Ther Sci. 2018;30(1):18-22. doi:10.1589/jpts.30.18
  • 2
    Vigotsky AD, Harper EN, Ryan DR, Contreras B. Effects of load on good morning kinematics and EMG activity. PeerJ. 2015;3:e708. Published 2015 Jan 6. doi:10.7717/peerj.708
  • 3
    Calatayud J, Escriche-Escuder A, Cruz-Montecinos C, et al. Tolerability and Muscle Activity of Core Muscle Exercises in Chronic Low-back Pain. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(19):3509. Published 2019 Sep 20. doi:10.3390/ijerph16193509
  • 4
    Low Back Exercises: Stuart McGill’s Big Three (2018) – American Council of Exercise
  • 5
    Yaprak Y. The effects of back extension training on back muscle strength and spinal range of motion in young females. Biol Sport. 2013;30(3):201-206. doi:10.5604/20831862.1047500
  • 6
    Jeong UC, Sim JH, Kim CY, Hwang-Bo G, Nam CW. The effects of gluteus muscle strengthening exercise and lumbar stabilization exercise on lumbar muscle strength and balance in chronic low back pain patientsJ Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(12):3813-3816. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.3813
  • 7
    Lehecka, B J et al. “BUILDING A BETTER GLUTEAL BRIDGE: ELECTROMYOGRAPHIC ANALYSIS OF HIP MUSCLE ACTIVITY DURING MODIFIED SINGLE-LEG BRIDGES.” International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy vol. 12,4 (2017): 543-549
  • 8
    Fisher J, Bruce-Low S, Smith D. A randomized trial to consider the effect of Romanian deadlift exercise on the development of lumbar extension strengthPhys Ther Sport. 2013;14(3):139-145. doi:10.1016/j.ptsp.2012.04.001
  • 9
    Hwang YI, Park DJ. Comparison of lumbar multifidus thickness and perceived exertion during graded Superman exercises with or without an abdominal drawing-in maneuver in young adults. J Exerc Rehabil. 2018;14(4):628-632. Published 2018 Aug 24. doi:10.12965/jer.1836296.148

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Murshid Akram

I’m a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. For the last six years, I’ve been working and training with people who use all sorts of equipment and follow multiple types of workouts, from calisthenics to powerlifting. I primarily design workout plans and share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you become stronger, flexible, and healthier.

About Me

I’m a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. For the last six years, I’ve been working and training with people who use all sorts of equipment and follow multiple types of workouts, from calisthenics to powerlifting. I primarily design workout plans and share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you become stronger, flexible, and healthier.

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