Mayo Clinic Health Library

Slide show: Back exercises in 15 minutes a day

Updated: 05-16-2013

Back exercises in 15 minutes a day

Photo montage of four back exercises

Do you want to prevent back pain? Try a few basic exercises to stretch and strengthen your back and supporting muscles. Repeat each exercise a few times, then increase the number of repetitions as the exercise gets easier. If you've ever hurt your back or have other health conditions, such as osteoporosis, consult your doctor before doing these exercises.

Knee-to-chest stretch

Photos of man lying on back, bringing knees to chest

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor (A). Using both hands, pull up one knee and press it to your chest (B). Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position (A) and repeat with the opposite leg (C). Return to the starting position and then repeat with both legs at the same time (D). Repeat each stretch two to three times — preferably once in the morning and once at night.

Lower back rotational stretch

Photos of man lying on back, rolling knees side to side

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor (A). Keeping your shoulders firmly on the floor, roll your bent knees to one side (B). Hold for five to 10 seconds. Return to the starting position (C). Repeat on the opposite side (D). Repeat each stretch two to three times — preferably once in the morning and once at night.

Lower back flexibility exercise

Photos of man practicing lower back flexibility exercise

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor (A). Arch your back so that your pubic bone feels like it's pointing toward your feet (B). Hold for five seconds and then relax. Flatten your back, pulling your bellybutton toward the floor so that your pubic bone feels like it's pointing toward your head (C). Hold for five seconds and then relax. Repeat. Start with five repetitions each day and gradually work up to 30.

Bridge exercise

Photos of man practicing bridge exercise

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor (A). Keeping your shoulders and head relaxed on the floor, tighten your abdominal and gluteal muscles. Then raise your hips to form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders (B). Try to hold the position long enough to complete three deep breaths. Return to the starting position (C). Repeat. Start with five repetitions each day and gradually work up to 30.

Cat stretch

Photos of man practicing cat stretches

Position yourself on your hands and knees (A). Slowly let your back and abdomen sag toward the floor (B). Then slowly arch your back, as if you're pulling your abdomen up toward the ceiling (C). Return to the starting position (A). Repeat three to five times twice a day.

Seated lower back rotational stretch

Photos of man practicing seated twists

Sit on an armless chair or a stool. Cross your right leg over your left leg. Bracing your left elbow against the outside of your right knee, twist and stretch to the side (A). Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side (B). Repeat this stretch three to five times on each side twice a day.

Shoulder blade squeeze

Photos of man doing shoulder squeeze

Sit on an armless chair or a stool (A). While maintaining good posture, pull your shoulder blades together (B). Hold for five seconds and then relax. Repeat three to five times twice a day.

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