The 6 Worst Exercises for Your Back

If we’re going to make the effort to exercise, the least our body could do is not get injured. Right? Well unfortunately, back pain still happens—a lot. To avoid being betrayed by your vertebrae, steer clear of these six movements.

How to Work Out If You've Got a Bad Back

worst exercises for a bad back sit ups
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They might be the original ab exercise, but the truth is sit-ups do more harm than good. In addition to working only about 20 percent of your abdominal muscles, sit-ups also put unnecessary pressure on the discs in your spine, which could lead to pain in anyone, regardless of whether or not they’ve got a bad back. Instead, stick to plank variations, which will have you feeling comfy in a crop top way sooner anyway.

Squats are a tremendous exercise for strengthening your legs and glutes, but they’re also hard to do with perfect form (especially if you’re working out on your own). If you’ve been properly trained, squats shouldn’t be an issue for your back, but until then, stick to safer, similarly toning exercises like wall sits.

worst exercises for a bad back boxing

Listen, we love taking a spin in the ring as much as the next person, but boxing, with all its sharp torso rotations (you know, when you’re punching), isn’t ideal for keeping your back safe. If you must punch a bag for an hour, make sure to engage your core the whole time. A strong core is kind of like a supportive corset where your back is concerned, making you less prone to injury.

Sorry, speed racers: Running, with its repeated stress and heavy impact, is a common culprit when it comes to back pain. The repeated pounding of your feet and legs on the ground is a common stressor for those who already have weak backs and sometimes a trigger for those who don’t. For a lower impact cardio workout, stick to things like spinning and swimming, which focus on endurance without being nearly as hard on your joints.

worst exercises for a bad back jumprope
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Jumping rope
Like squats, jumping rope is a hugely effective way to tone up while torching calories. Unfortunately, it also means a ton of pounding on your joints, so if you’re prone to back pain (or knee pain, for that matter), it’s best to skip—no pun intended—the ropes in favor of another exercise that combines strength and endurance, like rowing.

Foam rolling (sometimes)
We’re really into foam rolling in a “hurts so good” kinda way. It’s a great way to release tension and tightness in muscles after they’ve been overworked. But, before you roll out, make sure you’re doing it correctly, which means staying away from the lower back (stick to areas like your quads, outer thighs and upper back). That’s because there aren’t enough bones (just large muscles) to protect lower back and organs from the pressure of a foam roller.

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...