It is well known that Pilates is an amazing program to help improve overall strength and flexibility and in particular to help relieve back pain. This is because Pilates is built around the best core strength exercises to help strengthen the spine and the deep abdominal muscles that support the back and posture. These exercises are both effective and intuitive, so no matter your fitness level you can start to get stronger and feel better fast. Couple this improved core strength with gentle mobility exercises to stretch and lengthen tight back muscles, and Pilates is a match made in heaven for achy backs.

The below 4 core strength exercises for low back are very effective to help improve stability and control on the spine. They will fire up your deep abdominal muscles, hips, legs and shoulders, all in just a few minutes of practice and provide you with a deep girdle of support around your body. This inner core strength and stability will improve everything you do, from walking and skiing, to lifting your kids or swinging your golf clubs. Core strength supports a healthy back and these 4 moves will get you there fast. 

The 4 Best Core Strength Exercises

1. Bird Dog - strengthening the abdominals, hips and back muscles.

From a 4 point position, exhale to draw navel towards spine, squeeze right buttock to lift right leg and raise left arm out in front. Return to floor on inhale then repeat on opposite side. Focus on being stable!

Starting position for Bird Dog exercise
Birddog Start Position - 4 Point Kneeling

Bird Dog Exercise with arm and leg extension
Birddog - Opposite Arm & Leg Extension

2. Glute Bridge (Double and Single Leg Variation) - strengthening the hips and back

From a supine position, feet hip width apart with a yoga block between the thighs and arms along side, squeeze glutes and lift hips straight up from floor to create a long diagonal line. Be careful not to push the ribs ribs too high, but instead focus on pushing the front hip bones up with engaged glutes and strong feet. Exhale and draw low ab muscles inward as you lift hips, inhale to lower. Repeat 10 - 15 x. 

Next, extend the right leg and lift hips up and down 10 x with left leg only. Focus on keeping the pelvis level and not twisting or dropping. Repeat on R leg 10 x. 

Finish by hugging both knees in toward the chest and roll gently side to side on the low back.

Pilates Glute Bridge Exercise
Glute Bridge with Yoga Block

Glute Bridge Exercise on One Leg
Glute Bridge - Single Leg Variation

3. Toe Taps - strengthening the deep core muscles of the abdominals and hip flexors

Lying Supine, inhale deeply then exhale and draw navel toward spine and slowly lift right leg and left leg over hips to a right angle, (this is table top position). Option to keep arms pressing down alongside hips, OR raise both arms over chest. On exhale engage deep core muscles to hold inward and then slowly lower one foot toward floor and then inhale back up to table top position.  Keep core muscles drawn in while you practice lowering and lifting one leg at a time slowly. For added challenge try moving one or both arms back over head as one foot is lowering.

Toe Tap Abdominal Exercise with Yoga Block
Toe Tap Exercise Start Position - Table Top

Toe Tap Core Exercise with Yoga Block
Toe Tap Exercise with Yoga Block in Hands

4. Push Up Plank - strengthening the abdominals and core against gravity

Plank positions are a great way to build strength and endurance in all your core muscles including the back and shoulder girdle stabilizers, deep and superficial abdominals, hip and glute muscles, plus arms and legs too. Planks can be practiced with you knees up or down, from your forearms or hands. Start with 2 sets of 30 seconds and build toward holding the position for 1- 2 minutes by adding 10 seconds per week. Be sure your head and neck are aligned, your shoulder blades are not collapsing together and your core is held up. 

Modified Plank Position from knees
Modified Plank Position Knees Down

Full Plank Position from Toes
Full Plank Position

5. Child's Pose - a resting position to stretch the hips and spine

Finish with 30 seconds in this resting position, allowing your arms to extend forward and your spine to lengthen, head up or down before rolling up.

Resting Position - Child's Pose
Child's Pose - Hips to Heels Arms Extended

Practice these 4 Pilates Core Strength Exercises 3-4 x week to improve your core strength and low back stability and you will start to feel less strain and stress in your spine. Once you become aware of these postural supporting muscles you will stand taller, move with more confidence and have more endurance to do the activities that you love. 

If you would like to learn and practice more Pilates exercises to support your low back, improve your core strength and move with more ease and balance, I invite you to join my virtual Pilates mat programs and subscribe to Pilates with Janine, my YouTube channel