Strengthen your spine with these 10 exercises |

Keep your back pain-free by strengthening your cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine.

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A healthy spine allows you to do things like walk, run, bend and twist with ease. And the best way to support your spine is to strengthen the muscles around it. Exercises that support the entire spine, including the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, can keep you pain-free and mobile.

When you think of exercises to strengthen your spine, you may only think of your lower back. Maintaining a healthy body means keeping the entire spine strong, including the upper, middle and lower back. A regular exercise program that keeps your spine strong will also prevent future injuries.

“Strengthening exercises make the muscles that support the spine stronger.” They also provide stability to the spine,” says Antonio Webb, MD, a fellowship-trained and board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon in San Antonio, Texas. “[They] they also allow for better posture by keeping the spine in alignment. Poor posture is a common cause of back pain, especially in the cervical and lumbar regions. Appropriate strengthening exercises can help alleviate this.

Why exercises to strengthen the spine are important

A strong core is the foundation for a healthy spine, says the Mayo Clinic. It helps you to provide stability and balance to move in the most efficient way. Your core also promotes proper posture. In addition to your core, it’s important to strengthen the other muscles that support your spine to prevent muscle imbalances, which can lead to pain and injury.

Your spine starts at your neck, and a strong cervical spine not only helps with posture (and prevents the dreaded “tech neck” from looking down at your phone) but also promotes pain-free movement.

“My favorite way to strengthen the cervical spine is to first maintain good posture. This is key to improving the overall health of your cervical spine,” says Dr. Webb. “Extended flexion, especially in my job as a surgeon, and also in people who are constantly [looking down at] their phone, can put unnecessary strain on the back support muscles causing fatigue and cramping. This can lead to discomfort and pain.”

One of Dr. Webb’s best cervical exercises involves isometric strengthening, which research has shown to be effective. A meta-analysis from September 2022 in ‌Medicinefound that isometric neck strengthening exercises were effective in reducing pain and improving function and mobility.

A strong thoracic (or mid-back) spine helps promote good posture to prevent a hunched back, also called postural kyphosis. A study from October 2017 in ‌Osteoporosis Internationalfound that postural training and exercises improved hunched posture after six months.

“Exercises that can strengthen the thoracic spine include yoga or Pilates,” says Dr. Webb. “Poses like cobra and bridge, in addition to rotational stretches, can be beneficial and beneficial.”

“Exercises that strengthen the lumbar spine should focus on core stability, which is essential to reduce stress on the lumbar vertebrae and discs,” says Dr. Webb. He recommends planks, glute bridges, wall sits and pelvic tilts. “Additionally, maintaining movement in the lumbar region can prevent stiffness and discomfort.”

Three specific core-strengthening exercises called McGill’s Big 3 work the core in a way that helps protect your spine from injury. The three exercises are the modified curl, side plank and bird dog (video below). A study from April 2018 in ‌Journal of Physical Therapy Science‌ found that these three exercises, compared to conventional exercises, were more effective in reducing pain and improving movement, especially for those with chronic low back pain.

10 best exercises to strengthen the spine

Try doing the following 10 exercises two to three times a week, along with aerobic exercise. “Several other exercises can help promote a healthy spine, including aerobic exercise, swimming, walking, aquatic therapy, stretching, yoga, and Pilates,” says Dr. Webb.


If you experience pain while performing these exercises, it is best to stop. Mild discomfort is to be expected, but a sharp or stabbing pain is a warning sign. “Use pain as a yardstick; it should not be intense or get worse. If so, you should stop exercising immediately and consult a professional, says Dr. Webb.

1. Neck isometry

  1. Sit up straight in a chair or stand with your shoulders back and your head in a neutral position.
  2. Press your palm to your forehead and resist with your neck. Hold for 10 seconds. Your head should not move at all. Repeat 5 times.
  3. Press your palm to the back of your head and resist the movement. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
  4. Press the right palm against the right side of the head. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
  5. Press the left palm on the left side of the head. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
  6. Repeat the entire sequence 2 to 3 times.

2. Chin tightening

  1. Sit or stand with your shoulders back and your ears over your shoulders.
  2. Keeping your head up, pull your chin back (you can push your chin with your finger if that helps) until you feel a stretch in your neck.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat 2 sets of 10.

3. Rows of resistance bands

  1. Sit on the floor with your back straight and your legs stretched forward.
  2. Wrap the resistance band around the soles of your feet and hold one end of the band in each hand.
  3. Bend your elbows and pull the band back, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position with straight arms.
  5. Repeat 2 sets of 15.


You can also perform rowing using the cable pulley machine at the gym.

4. Raising the arms in a prone position

  1. Lie on the floor face down, with a pillow under your stomach.
  2. Extend your arms to each side with elbows bent and hands behind your head.
  3. Lift your shoulders and arms off the floor until your back is straight. Consider squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top.
  4. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds.
  5. Return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat 2 sets of 10.

5. Raising arms/legs in opposite positions

  1. Lie on your stomach with your legs extended behind you. Lean on your forearms.
  2. Raise your right arm straight forward while simultaneously raising your leg and leg.
  3. Continue to raise your right arm and left leg for 10 repetitions.
  4. Repeat on the other side, lifting the left arm and right leg at the same time for 10 repetitions.
  5. Perform 2 to 3 sets of 10 on each side.

6. Superhero

  1. Lie on your stomach with your legs straight behind you.
  2. Bend your arms, keeping them at shoulder level.
  3. Keeping your arms bent, lift your legs and upper body at the same time.
  4. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds.
  5. Return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
  6. Do 2 to 3 sets.

7. Glute Bridges

  1. Squeeze your butt as you lift your bottom off the floor.
  2. Continue lifting until your body is in a straight line. Hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Repeat 2 to 3 sets of 10.

8. Modified bending (McGill exercise)

  1. Lie on your back and straighten your right leg while keeping your left knee bent. This puts your pelvis in a neutral position to strengthen your core without straining your back.
  2. Place your hands under the arch of your back.
  3. Lift the blades off the ground about 1 to 2 inches. Focus on moving your head and chest together as a unit. Keep your neck straight and don’t let your head fall back.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds.
  5. Repeat 2 to 3 sets of 10.

9. Side plank (McGill exercise)

  1. Lie on your side, resting on your forearm with your legs extended and leaning against each other.
  2. Lift your hips off the floor in a sideways position, keeping your body in a straight line.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds, or as long as you can with good form.
  4. Lower yourself to the starting position.
  5. Repeat 10 times.
  6. Turn to the other side and repeat 10 times.
  7. Repeat 2 to 3 sets of 10 on each side.

10. Bird dog (McGill exercise)

  1. Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  2. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes as you lift one arm while simultaneously lifting the opposite leg straight up.
  3. Raise your arm until it is shoulder level and raise your leg until it is hip level.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds, or as long as you can with good form.
  5. Repeat 10 times on each side.
  6. Repeat for 2 to 3 sets.

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