13 Best Back Exercises for Elderly To Build Strength

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Back Exercises for Elderly

As you get older your body becomes more susceptible to back pain-related conditions like spinal degeneration, osteoporosis, and spinal stenosis.

That’s why it is vital to perform strengthening exercises to prevent poor posture and build up the muscles supporting your spine.

Today, I am going to show you thirteen back exercises for elderly people that you can perform with little to no equipment.

Although many of these can be done on your own, it’s a good idea to use them under the supervision of a certified personal trainer or physical therapist at first.

They can help you decide which ones are right for your SPECIFIC circumstances and avoid the ones that could cause further injury.

13 Back Strengthening Exercises for Seniors

Try to pick at least 1-3 of the options from this list to add to your back exercise sessions.

They should be performed a minimum of once per week, up to three days per week.

However, if your back muscles are still sore from the previous workout give your body an extra day of recovery.

(Stop the regimen completely and seek medical advice if you notice any sharp pain.)

I will also include my recommendations for how many reps and sets to do for each exercise.

1. Kneeling Reverse Leg Lifts

Kneeling reverse leg lifts are a great movement for targeting many of the supporting muscles in and around your back.

These include the core, glutes, hamstrings, low back, hip flexors, and extensor muscles.

All of which are vital for reducing pressure on your spine and improving posture.

  1. Start by lying face down, propped up on your elbows and knees on a yoga mat.
  2. Clasp your hands together and tighten your stomach.
  3. Extend your right leg back and slowly raise it above your body.
  4. Lower it back down and then repeat the lifting motion for 8-12 reps.
  5. Switch to the other leg.
  6. Perform a total of 2-3 sets, focusing on one leg at a time.

2. Standing Lumbar Extension

You can use lumbar extension stretches to increase flexibility and range of motion.

Which may help alleviate some of the pressure caused by spinal stenosis.

  1. Begin by standing up straight with your hands pressed against your lower back.
  2. Lift your chest and retract your shoulder blades to arch your lower back.
  3. Hold this position for 10-30 seconds before releasing.
  4. Repeat for 1-2 more sets.

3. Arm Raises

Arm raises are going to improve the mobility in your upper back and shoulders, fixing any unevenness you may have.

This will help to relax your arms into a natural position for better spinal alignment.

  1. Stand up straight with your arms by your sides.
  2. Raise both arms overhead until your upper arms are by the sides of your head.
  3. Lower them back down to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps.

4. Bird Dog

The bird dog is one of the go-to balance exercises in physical therapy due to its ability to work many different stabilizer muscles throughout the body compared to other exercises.

With consistent and proper execution you’ll notice improvements in your leg, hip, shoulder, back, and core stability.

In turn, this will significantly alleviate lower back pain related to postural issues.

  1. Start in a downward-facing tabletop position with a neutral spine and head tilted up slightly.
  2. Slowly lift your right foot back and your opposite arm forward so that they’re both pointing straight.
  3. Stop once they’re parallel to the floor and hold for 2-3 seconds.
  4. Repeat for 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps, either focusing on one side at a time or alternating.

5. Superman

Although this exercise won’t make you fly, it will make you stronger as it requires you to enter into and briefly hold an extension position to target your spinal erectors and glutes.

  1. Lay down flat on your stomach with your arms and legs extended on the ground.
  2. Simultaneously raise your arms and legs off the ground by lifting up your chest and thighs.
  3. Go as high as you can without overextending your spine and hold for 1-3 seconds.
  4. Replicate this motion for 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.

6. Glute Bridge

As the name suggests, the glute bridge is primarily going to target your buttocks.

You’ll also engage your hips, lower back, and abdominal muscles.

And when done regularly this exercise is a powerhouse for preventing pain in your back and knees.

  1. Lay flat on your back with your palms and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift your hips off the ground to form a straight line through your torso and thighs.
  3. Squeeze your glutes at the top for 1-4 seconds before lowering back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for 2-4 sets of 10-15 reps.

7. Knee to Chest

This one is going to focus on you loosening up your glutes, lower back, and hip muscles.

Loosening up these areas will allow you to walk faster and more efficiently with less compression in your lower body.

To do the knee-to-chest stretch start by:

  1. Lying flat on your back with knees bent on top of a firm bed or yoga mat.
  2. Grab the bottom of your right knee using both hands.
  3. Pull it towards your chest as high as it will comfortably go.
  4. Hold it here for 10-30 seconds before releasing it.
  5. Switch to the left leg before repeating for 1-2 sets on both sides.

8. Hamstring Stretch

When your hamstrings are tight your hips and pelvis become misaligned.

This can potentially lead to a condition called flat back syndrome caused by poor posture.

  1. Begin by laying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat.
  2. Extend your left leg and raise it upward and toward your chest.
  3. Grasp the bottom side of that same knee to pull the stretch even deeper.
  4. Hold for 10-30 seconds and switch to the other leg.
  5. Do this for a total of 1-3 sets.

9. Resistance Band Lat Pulldown

Lat pulldowns target the largest muscle in your back known as the latissimus dorsi, which assists with rotator cuff and arm movement.

Generally, this exercise would be completed using a weighted pulley system.

However, resistance bands are just as effective and a much cheaper alternative.

  1. Assume a wide stance while standing up straight.
  2. Grasp the resistance band with an overhand grip shoulder width apart.
  3. Raise your arms overhead and begin pulling the band apart.
  4. Try to pull down far enough so that your arms are nearly parallel with the floor.
  5. Then release the tension to move your arms back up overhead.
  6. Repeat this motion for 2-4 sets of 10-15 reps.

10. Cat-Cow

The cat-cow is a stretch that combines lumbar flexion and extension into one smooth motion.

This move is commonly used in yoga to relieve tension in the muscles and improve mood.

  1. Start by getting down on all fours with your hands aligned under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  2. With your spine in the neutral position breathe in and slowly arch your back so that your stomach moves closer to the floor. Holding it for 2-4 seconds.
  3. Then, breathe out and round your back up towards the ceiling. Again, holding for 2-4 seconds.
  4. Perform this move for 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps within both the cat and cow phases.

11. Reverse Crunches

Reverse crunches are a simpler, yet still effective progression of the regular crunch that stimulates and stretches the transverse abdominis, or lower core muscles.

Many people often get confused between the back and abdominal muscles, however, both are equally important for stabilizing and rotating the spine.

Plus, the abdominals are actually connected to the back, making it critical not to neglect either one.

  1. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent up towards your chest.
  2. Place your hands on the back of your head to support your neck with your elbows flared out.
  3. From here, lift your head upwards towards your knees while moving your thighs to your chest.
  4. Then, lower your head to the floor and lower your knees so that they’re in line with your hips.
  5. Repeat this sequence for 2 sets of 10-20 repetitions.

12. Standing Reverse Leg Lifts

This is a great alternative to the kneeled version for those of you who have trouble applying direct pressure on the elbows or knees.

It’s still going to target your core, back, extensors, and hip flexor muscles without putting as much strain on your joints.

  1. Stand upright while holding onto either a chair or wall for balance.
  2. Lift your right leg straight back as far as it’ll go without compromising your upright stance.
  3. Squeeze your glutes as you hold this position for 2-3 seconds.
  4. Then, lower back down to the start.
  5. Perform 10-20 reps before switching to the other leg.
  6. Complete a total of 2-4 sets.

13. Sit Backs

If you have trouble standing up from a seated or lying position such as a chair or your bed, give this one a try.

It’s a great way to build up your abdominal muscles while promoting forward and backward mobility in your lower back.

  1. Begin seated with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
  2. Cross your arms over your chest.
  3. With your spine straight, lean back as far as you can comfortably go without touching the floor.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat for 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps.

Why You Should Have Strong Back Muscles

When you have weak back muscles, other muscles have to take on an extra load during any type of physical activity.

This will create muscular imbalances leading to poor posture and tightness, making you more susceptible to injury.

On top of that, you’ll be at greater risk of developing degenerative diseases which can lead to nerve damage, low bone mass, and chronic low back pain.

Benefits of These Exercises

Fortunately, by utilizing the exercises outlined above, you can strengthen and mobilize your back and core muscles, along with many other areas of your body.

Also leading to further benefits like:

  • Good Posture

This will improve your center of gravity and weight distribution to offload any stress that could negatively affect your spine health.

Standing properly upright could potentially lead to an increase in the digestive system and respiratory function as well.

  • Functional Performance

When your body is functional it will be more pliable and relaxed.

Ultimately improving your mood and making everyday activities easier to complete with a fuller range of motion.

  • Muscle Strength

If your muscles are strong your joints will have an extra layer of protection.

Possibly allowing you to progress further in your workout routine by adding in higher impact movements like the leg press, squat, and bench press.

  • Prevent Further Lower Back Pain

With certain conditions, it can be tough to fully alleviate back pain.

However, exercising can at least slow down the effects of things like degenerative disc disease.

  • Better Blood Flow

When you get your body moving through these exercises, your blood will flow at a faster rate.

This will boost your energy levels, lower your blood pressure, and promote skin health.

  • Improve Overall Health

Using these back-strengthening exercises will help you build a solid muscular foundation and slow the loss of bone tissue.

Plus, you’ll decrease your risk of illnesses, extend your physical longevity, improve your ability to focus, and possibly lose excess body fat.

Causes of Lower Back Pain in Older Adults

Lower back pain is an extremely common ailment among older adults these days.

In fact, one study shows that in 2019, 45.6% of people aged 65 and older reported having some form of back pain in the United States alone.

Percentage of Adults with Back Pain in the US as of 2019

Some of the more treatable forms are caused by tightness and muscular imbalances.

Typically brought on by sitting with poor posture, lifting heavy objects with improper form, and neglecting an anaerobic or aerobic exercise plan by living a sedentary lifestyle.

Age-related conditions such as muscle atrophy, disc slips, and restricted nerves can lead to more severe cases.

This is because as the body ages it begins to naturally degenerate and lose the ability to heal and maintain structural integrity.

Ultimately, smart lifestyle changes will need to be made either way for preventing future lower back pain and mitigating current pain.

FAQ for Back Strengthening Exercises

How Do Seniors Strengthen Their Back Muscles?

Most older adults who successfully strengthen their back muscles adhere to a well-planned exercise program that incorporates a back workout 1-3 days per week.

They utilize resistance training and stretching techniques using resistance bands, weights, and their body weight.

On top of eating nutritious meals, drinking plenty of water, and getting adequate rest.

How Can Seniors Strengthen Their Lower Back?

For seniors to build lower back strength it’s important to focus on a combination of low-impact strengthening and stretching exercises such as the:

– Knee to Chest Stretch
– Bird Dog
– Cat-Cow

These will help to build strength and relieve tension in your lower back and the supporting muscles that could potentially be the root cause of any pain or weakness you may be experiencing.

Your exercise plan should also be combined with a healthy nutritional plan.

What Spinal Exercises Are Appropriate for Senior Citizens?

Here are 7 exercises that are appropriate for senior citizens to work the muscles around their spine:

1. Cat-Cows
2. Pelvic Tilts
3. Bird Dogs
4. Trunk Twists
5. Child’s Pose
6. Resistance Band Seated Rows
7. Sit Backs

What Are 3 Exercises That Strengthen Your Back?

You’re going to want to focus on a strengthening exercise for each area of your back. These could include:

1. Dumbbell Shrugs for your upper back.
2. Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows for your mid back.
3. Hyperextensions for your lower back.

Concluding Remarks on Back Strengthening Exercises for Seniors

If you notice that your ability to perform daily tasks is deteriorating, or you’re suffering from back pain, it may be time to start working out.

A good place to start is with your back since these are the largest muscles in the body that protect vital vertebrae, known as the spine.

That’s where these strengthening exercises for seniors come into play.

Consistently performing them will improve your flexibility, and agileness, and slow some of the effects of aging.

Who knows, they might even make you feel young again, no promises though.

Give em a try and find out for yourself!






Eric De Cremer
Eric De Cremer

Eric is an NCCA-accredited Certified Personal Trainer and competitively trained powerlifter. Feel free to contact him anytime at edecremer@wildnswole.com!