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Back Pain Center

Erector Spinae Strengthening Exercises

author image Tammie Painter
Based in Portland, Ore., Tammie Painter has been writing garden, fitness, science and travel articles since 2008. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as "Herb Companion" and "Northwest Travel" and she is the author of six books. Painter earned her Bachelor of Science in biology from Portland State University.
Erector Spinae Strengthening Exercises
Physical therapist examining a man with back pain Photo Credit: mangostock/iStock/Getty Images

If your back is aching and tired, weak muscles may be to blame. The erector spinae are muscles that run along the spine and are the primary muscles that help you rise back up when you bend over. With an inactive lifestyle, these muscles become weak, which puts you at risk for back strain. To reduce your aches and prevent injury, add some back-strengthening exercises to your routine.

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Bird Dog

This exercise not only tones the erector spinae but also builds strength throughout your core. Get down on the floor on your hands and knees. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders; your knees should be as far apart as your hands. Raise your right arm with your thumb pointing to the ceiling and your arm straight. At the same time, slowly raise your left leg so it is straight out behind you parallel to the floor. Hold the position for a count of two, then lower and switch sides. Repeat eight to 12 times on each side.

Prone Superman

To make this exercise more comfortable, lie on a rug or fold a towel and place it under your pubic bone. Lie face down on the floor. In a smooth and slow motion, raise both arms and both legs off the floor. Use your back muscles, not your leg and arm muscles, to do the work. Hold for a count of two and then slowly lower your arms and legs. Repeat eight to 12 times. If this feels too hard, start out lifting only your left arm and right leg. Lower, then switch sides. Eventually you'll build the strength to lift all of your limbs at once.

Standing Superman

This exercise works your erector spinae and also helps improve your balance. To start, you may need to keep one hand on a chair or table for balance. Stand with your feet hip width apart. Slowly lean forward as you extend your left leg straight behind you parallel to the floor. At the same time, reach your right arm straight out in front of you; your upper arm should be near your ear, and your eyes should be focused on the floor. Hold the position for a count of five, return to standing and then switch sides. Repeat eight to 12 times on each side.


For this exercise, start out using 3- to 5-pound free weights. Avoid using too much weight when you start this exercise or you will strain your back. As you get stronger, you can add more weight, if desired. To begin, stand with your back straight, your shoulders back and your feet hip width apart. Hold the weights so they are resting loosely on your upper thighs. Bend forward at the waist until your torso is parallel to the floor. Allow the weights to hang naturally. Do not slump or hunch your shoulders, lock your knees or bend at the back. Pause, then use the back muscles to raise yourself back to standing. Again, keep your back straight as you come up. Repeat eight to 12 times.

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