5 Worst Exercise Machines for Lower Back Pain

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Worst Exercise Machines for Lower Back Pain

With back problems being a common issue among many people, it’s important to choose the right kind of exercise machine.

In this article, we’ll look at the 5 worst exercise machines for lower back pain.

I’ll also offer some alternative home exercise equipment that can help relieve pain.

Find out what exercises to steer clear of and which ones are better suited for your recovery!

5 Worst Exercise Equipment for Your Back

1. Abdominal Crunch Machines

Many people believe that abdominal crunch machines are beneficial for strengthening the core and toning the abs.

However, these devices may actually be damaging to the lower back and cause a variety of issues.

If a person relies too heavily on these gym machines and does not engage in other core-strengthening exercises, they can become imbalanced.

This can lead to overly stressed and weak muscles in the torso area, leading to painful conditions like a herniated disc or sciatica.

Additionally, some crunch machines demand that users adopt an unnatural upper body position while using them.

This can put unnecessary strain on the spine.

Extra stress on this area without proper support increases the risk of experiencing more serious issues down the line, such as chronic back pain or slipped discs.


A good alternative for core strengthening is using the stability ball.

Using a stability ball activates muscles around the spine and helps to build balance.

The instability of using a stability ball engages more muscle groups in comparison to crunch machines.

It also puts less strain on the spine when done the right way. 

2. Incline Treadmills

Incline treadmills can be a great way to get your heart pumping and build up your cardiovascular fitness.

But if not used properly you can set yourself up for injury.

When running on an incline treadmill, your body’s center of gravity may shift too far forward due to the slant of the belt.

This increases the strain on the spine.

Additionally, the constant pounding of your feet against an inclined surface can cause more stress to your joints, muscles, and bones than flat ground running.

To avoid back pain while using an incline treadmill, it’s important to maintain proper posture with your core engaged throughout the entire workout.

Additionally, setting the angle of incline at no higher than three percent will help reduce some of that strain.

Finally, make sure you’re wearing well-fitted shoes with proper cushioning and arch support in order to provide adequate cushioning between your feet and the belt.


Walking on a flat treadmill is a great way to get your heart pumping and lose weight without as much back and knee strain as running.

When you walk on a flat surface, your center of gravity remains more centered.

This helps take the stress off of the spine, joints, and muscles.

Additionally, walking on a flat treadmill reduces the amount of jarring impact that comes with running or using an incline treadmill.

Other low-impact cardio alternatives include the recumbent bike, elliptical trainer, or vertical climber.

3. Hip Abductor Machines

It is widely accepted among medical professionals that hip abductors are not beneficial to the lower back and can actually lead to injury.

This is because when the user performs a hip abduction movement, it puts strain on the lower spine structures.

This leads to significant pain, inflammation, and even long-term damage.

Additionally, the use of hip abductors does not help strengthen or protect the back from further injury since it does not target any specific muscles in this area.


Banded lateral lunges are a great alternative to the hip abduction machine.

Unlike hip abductors, banded lateral lunges target multiple muscles in the thighs, glutes, hips, and abdomen while also providing stability.

Additionally, the resistance of the band puts minimal impact on the spine.

Which helps promote proper form while simultaneously giving the user an intense abductor workout.

4. Lying Leg Press Machines

Many people make the mistake of lifting their back off the machine when performing a leg press.

This can lead to poor spinal alignment, instability, and muscular imbalances.

The correct way to perform a leg press is to:

  • Sit with your butt and back flat against the machine.
  • Push through your heels and drive with your legs.
  • Stop the downward range of motion when you have a 90-degree bend in your knees.
  • Keep a slight bend in your knees at the top.

Additionally, the back muscles are not being engaged properly during this exercise, which leaves them underused and weak.

This can create an imbalance in strength between the front and back of your body.

Furthermore, when not performed correctly, lying leg presses can cause injury due to increased stress on the lumbar spine.


Squats and lunges are both great strength training alternatives as they require the user to maintain good posture.

These moves also help to keep your balance by strengthening the stabilizing muscles all over your body.

Additionally, they can be performed anywhere without needing weight machines or free weights.

5. Seated Back Extension Machines

Seated Back Extensions involve the user sitting in a reclined position and using their bodyweight to pull levers or handles to move the seat.

While these devices are commonly used for targeting the spinal erectors, they can cause increased strain on the spine.

This is especially likely if the user has problems with mobility.

When performing this type of exercise, it is essential that users maintain proper posture and avoid over-rounding or arching their lower back.

However, due to the design of the machine, this can be hard to avoid since the lower body and back have to fold over like a lawn chair to feel the stretch.

Then the spine has to over-exert itself upward to get out of that awkward position into the contracted phase.

It’s just not ideal.


The hyperextension machine targets the same muscles with the addition of the hamstrings, glutes, and hips.

This allows users to easily maintain correct posture and technique.

Additionally, since users stand in an angled position with extra leg stability, they can focus on extension while minimizing unnatural curvature.

Who Should Avoid These Machines?

People with chronic back pain, such as those suffering from spinal stenosis and herniated discs, should be especially cautious when using exercise machines.

These devices can often place an unnatural strain on the spine and result in further discomfort.

People with these conditions need to be particularly mindful of how their body is aligned during workout activities, and which equipment is the safest for them to use.

Finding the Best Machine for Your Condition

Finding the right exercise equipment to help with a lower back condition can be confusing.

It is important to do research and find the one that’s best designed for your specific condition.

Before making a purchase, make sure to consult with a doctor or physical therapist.

Doing this will ensure that you have the correct diagnosis and are aware of any contraindications that may occur when using the machine.

Additionally, it is important to consider factors such as price, size, noise level, ease of use, and how often it will need maintenance.

You can start by checking out my list of the 11 best exercise equipment for lower back pain.

Tips for Avoiding Injury While Exercising

To protect yourself while exercising, always warm up and cool down, and use the appropriate equipment and proper form.

Listen to your body and take rests if needed.

Never push beyond your limits.

Always be mindful of the difficulty of your workout so that you don’t aggravate your pre-existing pain.

Should You Exercise With Back Pain?

If you suffer from chronic back pain, it may seem counterintuitive to exercise.

However, physical activity is often recommended by doctors as part of the treatment plan for back pain.

Exercise can help improve strength, flexibility, and overall well-being while providing pain relief.

Back Pain FAQs

What Exercises Should I Avoid With Lower Back Pain?

Movements that should be avoided include bending, twisting, or lifting your lower back.

This includes things like crunches, abdominal twists, and heavy weight lifting.

What Gym Equipment Is Best for Lower Back Pain?

Low-impact cardio equipment such as an elliptical trainer, stationary bike, and the rowing machine is great for relieving low back pain and losing weight.

Is Treadmill OK for Lower Back Pain?

Whether a treadmill is okay depends on the severity and type of pain.

In general, low-impact walking on a treadmill is suitable.

However, it may be best to consult your doctor first before starting any exercise program.

Concluding the Worst Exercise Equipment for Back Pain

In conclusion, it’s always best to avoid any machines that can add extra stress to the lower back and spine.

But this doesn’t mean canceling your gym membership and giving up physical activity altogether.

With some modifications, you can still get the exercise you need to stay healthy.

Just try using low-impact alternatives such as elliptical machines, stationary bikes, or resistance bands.

A qualified physical therapist or personal trainer can also be consulted to determine which exercise is right for you, without causing unnecessary pain.






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!