Low back pain makes exercising difficult and painful, so it's tempting just to skip the workouts. Exercising in a pool, however, might feel a little better — and it has the same strengthening power as land workouts.
That's because the buoyancy of water supports up to 90 percent of your weight, so you're not putting the strain on your back like you do out of the pool. Without having to fight gravity, the movements become slightly easier. You don't need to pick up a dumbbell, either — it could easily injure you further — because the resistance of the water (12 times greater than air) is enough challenge for your body.
If you have the opportunity, do your exercises in a heated pool. The warmth will soothe those sore muscles and joints.
It's always important to warm up before a workout, but it's particularly apropos when you have an injury. Water walking is a simple yet effective warmup in the pool. If you plan to walk in deep water, use a floatation belt to keep the water around shoulder-height; otherwise, you don't need any equipment.
Now, just walk — just like you would on the ground. You'll feel the challenge against your body due to the resistance. Try walking backward and sideways to hit extra muscles. Keep your core muscles engaged, so you don't strain your lower back.
It's not always easy to target the back muscles that are painful, but the buoyancy of the water allows you to do that with this stretch.
How to: Stand at the edge of the pool and hold the edge with your hands placed shoulder-width apart and your arms straight. Lift yourself up, extending your legs straight behind you. Spread your legs apart, and arch your back slightly. If you need to give your neck a break, place your face in the water for a couple moments.
This movement develops strength and hip range of motion, which in turn helps to strengthen your lower back.
How-to: Stand near the wall, but only hold onto it if you feel like you're going to lose your balance. Keeping your knee straight, kick forward and backward, going as far as you can. Do three sets of 10, and then turn around and complete the same number on the other side. When you're done with the front and back, complete the same motion while swinging your leg out to the side.
This move works your full core, which includes your low back.
How-to: Get into the deep water while wearing a flotation belt. Lift both knees up to your chest and release them back down. Repeat for 10 reps of three sets. For a little more intensity, when you bring your legs down, stretch them out in front of you like you were floating on your back.