Woman doing seated rows at the gym. She is wearing Bauerfeind Sports Back Brace

Back pain is a very, very common problem. Thanks to desk jobs, heavy lifting, and even a too-old mattress, the spine can start complaining. As exercise is one of the best remedies for pain, we’ve compiled a list of the best stretching and strengthening exercises for the upper, mid, and lower back.


Best stretching exercises for back pain

Tension in the back muscles is often the culprit behind back pain. When the muscles aren’t relaxing as they should, they can form painful knots. Tight muscles can also pull on your spine, shoulders, ribs, and hips, irritating those areas. Fortunately, stretching is an excellent way to relieve some tension. Here are the best stretches to try. 


Thoracic extension

This stretch is great for the upper and mid-back. You can do thoracic extensions while lying on your back or sitting on a chair with a low back. 

  • Use a foam roller or roll up a bath towel.
  • Put it horizontally between your shoulder blades.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles to prevent your spine from moving too much.
  • Lift your arms over your head.
  • Extend your upper back and body over the roll.
  • Hold the position for 20 seconds, then slowly come back up.

Overhead reach

This exercise stretches the lats, which connect to the upper back muscles and support the mid back. 

  • Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart. You can widen your stance a little bit if you’re having trouble maintaining balance.
  • Place your left hand at your side with your palm touching your thigh.
  • Raise your right hand above your head, extending your elbow and shoulder. Point your fingertips to the sky. 
  • Keep your right arm up high and slowly lean to the left. Keep going and lowering your left hand until you feel a gentle stretch on the right side of your torso. 
  • Allow your neck to drop to the side and sink into the stretch. 
  • Keep this pose for 10 seconds before returning to your starting position. 
  • Repeat on the other side. 
  • Continue alternating sides for 5 reps each. Do 2-3 sets twice daily.


Thread the needle

woman doing the thread the needle stretch against back pain

Thread the needle opens the chest, and stretches the upper back, neck, and shoulders. It’s a great way to mobilise the thoracic and cervical spine, especially for beginners and those who lack movement in those areas. 

  • Get on all fours on a yoga or exercise mat.
  • Your hips should be directly above your knees, and your wrists should be under your shoulders with your elbows straight. Point your fingers forward.
  • Lift your right hand above your head, keeping your gaze on it and rotating your torso to the right in one fluid motion.
  • Do the reverse, twisting your torso back down and then to the left as you thread your right arm beneath your left arm. 
  • Sink into the stretch by slightly bending your left arm. Keep your hips still while allowing your right shoulder to pass close to the mat. Keep some pressure in your left palm to avoid crunching your neck. 
  • Hold the position for 30 seconds and then unthread, reversing your movement. Reach to the sky again, then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the other side.

Supine twist

It’s a great way to relieve pain and tension in the hips, lower back, and mid-back.

  • Lay down on your back on a yoga or exercise mat.
  • Splay your arms out to the sides with your palms facing the ceiling.
  • Bend your knees and bring your heels toward your buttocks.
  • Slowly lower your knees to the floor to the left, gently twisting your hips and torso. You should feel a slight pull along your right side.
  • Hold the position for 10 seconds, then return to the starting position. 
  • Repeat for the other side. 
  • Do the movement 5 times for each side.


Cat cow 

Cat cow flexes and extends the spine.

  • Get on all fours onto a yoga or exercise mat. Your knees should be directly under your hips, and your wrists should be under your shoulders. Place your palms flat with your fingers pointing forward.
  • While breathing in, drop your stomach toward the floor and look up at the ceiling. Hold the position for a couple of seconds. 
  • While breathing out, arch your back toward the ceiling, rounding your shoulders and lowering your head. Hold the position for a couple of seconds.
  • Repeat both motions 5 times.



This stretch is great for nudging your lumbar and sacral vertebrae into the right position, especially after a long day of sitting. It also opens up the chest and gently stretches the abdomen. 

  • Lie on your belly with your feet spread hip-width apart. Point your toes so the tops of your feet are touching the mat.
  • Bend your elbows and place your hands on the floor next to your ribs, stacking your wrists and elbows.
  • On an inhale, begin to peel your chest away from the floor.
  • If this is your first time doing this exercise or you have mobility issues in the mid or lower back, start with a half cobra. Keep your elbows bent and your lower belly on the floor.
  • If it’s comfortable for you to do so, go into the full cobra. Lift off until your arms are straight and your belly is entirely off the floor.


Knee to chest

Knee to Chest gently stretches your hips and glutes and helps relieve pressure in your sacrum. 

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. 
  • Gently raise one bent knee and grasp your shin with both hands. Interlace your fingers just under the knee.
  • Gently pull your bent knee toward your trunk using your hands.
  • While pulling, try to relax your legs, pelvis, and lower back as much as possible. 
  • Hold for 5 seconds, then return your leg to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side. Do 5-10 reps at least twice daily.

You can pull both legs up at once for a more advanced stretch. Be sure to take it slow and mind your pain levels. While raising both legs offers more of a stretch, its one-legged counterpart is safer for vulnerable backs. 


Brace against back pain 

 Man strengthening his back and glutes at the gym through deadlifts. He is wearing Bauerfeind's LumboTrain Back Brace



Whether your back pain results from run-of-the-mill muscle tension, the result of sacroiliac joint dysfunction, or an acute or overuse injury, wearing a back brace can make sticking to an exercise plan easier. 

The LumboTrain Back Brace, for instance, incorporates medical-grade compression and a gel pad. The compression activates the muscles, helping them better support the lumbar. It also boosts circulation, helping the muscles and any injured tissues get the oxygen and nutrients they need faster.

Meanwhile, the pad will massage the area as you move and relieve pain. When you’re in pain, some nerve signals can get interrupted, disrupting proper muscle activation. 

Lastly, the LumboTrain has no rigid parts. It focuses solely on using your muscles - your body’s natural support network - to protect the lumbar. It won’t restrict movement.

For a sacroiliac or hip issue that may be referring to the back, try the SacroLoc Back Brace. It has a similar composition to the LumboTrain with the addition of an offloading system. 


Best strengthening exercises for back pain

A strong back is better equipped to support your spine and handle potentially damaging weights and movements. Stronger muscles will also make it much easier to maintain good posture, reducing the risk of pain related to ergonomics. 


Resisted rows 

For this exercise, you will need a resistant band. Attach it to a fixed object or structure, like a pole or door anchor.

  • Hold one end of the band in each hand. While standing with your feet spread hip-width apart, squat slightly and stabilise your spine by contracting your core muscles. 
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together and slowly pull the resistance band toward your ribs.
  • While gripping the resistance band tight, slowly return your arms to the start position. 
  • Do 10 reps in 3 sets. 
  • Grab a band with more resistance or increase your reps for more of a challenge. For less of a challenge, do the opposite. 


Reverse flys 

This exercise targets the rhomboids, deltoids, and trapezius, which support your upper back and shoulders.

  • Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. We’d recommend starting with a lighter weight (or no weights at all) to get the motions of this exercise down first.
  • Slightly bend your knees and hinge forward at the hip until your torso is at around a 110-degree angle with your legs. Your back should remain in a neutral position throughout this exercise. Tuck your chin to avoid overarching or slouching.
  • Lift your arms out to the side, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Exhale during this motion and keep a slight bend in your elbows. 
  • Exhale and slowly lower your arms back into the starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times in 2-3 sets.


Lat pull down

Lat pull-downs target the lats and teres major, which support your shoulder blades, mid back, and parts of your upper back. You’ll need access to a lat pull-down machine or resistance bands, a bench, and a door anchor for this exercise.

  • During the exercise, your hands should be spread slightly wider than your shoulders. 
  • Pull the bar down toward your collarbone. 
  • Hold the bar in that position for 1-2 seconds. Push your shoulder blades down and back as you move through the pull.
  • Slowly return to the starting position. 
  • Do 8-10 reps in 2-3 sets.



Superman is a deceptively difficult exercise. It activates your glutes, hamstrings, and the entirety of your back - especially the middle.

  • Lie face down on the floor with your legs straight and arms extended in front of you.
  • Activate the glutes, core, and shoulder blades and, without looking up, slowly lift your arms and legs off the floor until you feel your lower back muscles contracting.
  • Aim to lift your belly button slightly off the floor. 
  • Hold this position for 2–3 seconds. 
  • Lower your arms, legs, and belly back to the floor. 
  • Complete 8–12 reps in 2-3 sets.


Barbell rows

Barbell rows target your lats, trapezius, and deltoids. It also activates the low back, rotator cuffs, and biceps. 

  • Stand up straight, holding the barbell with an overhand grip. Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. We recommend starting with a light weight as you get accustomed to the motions of this exercise. 
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. You can point your toes forward or slightly out, depending on which is more comfortable.
  • Hinge at the hip to bend forward. Your back should be neutral throughout the exercise. To target the mid back, you should be in more of a forward lean, with your body at a ~110-degree angle with your legs. The less you lean, the more focus you put on the upper back.
  • Lift the barbell toward your abdomen or chest, pulling your shoulder blades down and back. 
  • Slowly lower it back to the starting position.
  • Do 8 reps in 2-3 sets.


Glute bridge with leg extension

Glute bridges strengthen the glutes, hips, and lower back. Extending the leg makes this exercise more challenging as your muscles need to work harder to keep you balanced.

  • Lay face up on a yoga mat with your knees bent, feet hip-width apart, and arms resting by your sides. Keep your spine neutral. 
  • Inhale and activate your core. Exhale and push your heels into the mat to lift your hips until you are resting on your upper back, creating a straight line from shoulder to knee. Ensure that your glutes initiate the movement. 
  • Straighten one of your legs while keeping your core engaged and hips elevated. You should feel tension in your glutes and hamstrings as you do this.
  • Inhale and return to the starting position.
  • Complete 10-15 repetitions per leg before taking a break or set a timer and complete as many as you can in a set period. 


Dead bugs

Dead bugs is one of the safest ways to strengthen your core, which is crucial for supporting your lower and mid back.

  • Lay on your back on a mat.
  • Lift and straighten your arms so they’re at a 90-degree angle with the floor. Engage your core. Lift your legs, bending your knees at a 90-degree angle so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor. This is the starting position. 
  • Keeping your core engaged and lower back in contact with the mat, lower your left arm over your head while simultaneously lowering and extending your right leg. Move slowly and steadily, ensuring minimal twisting and lifting in your back and hips, and stop right before your hand and heel touch the ground. 
  • Slowly return your arm and leg to the starting position. 
  • Repeat for the right arm and left leg. 
  • Do 10-15 reps for both sides. Complete 2-3 sets.


To sum up

Back pain exercises that relieve tension and build strength will result in less pain and a lower risk of future injury. Combining reverse flys, glute bridges, and resisted rows will build muscle along your entire spine, while stretches like thread the needle, knee to chest, and cat cow will relieve tension.

More information

If you require assistance selecting the right product for your needs or wearing the brace, call us on 1300 668 466 or contact us via live chat.

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Bauerfeind was founded in 1929, and since then, we've worked tirelessly to develop and improve our extensive range of braces, insoles, and compression products. Our mission is to provide you with top-of-the-line supports so you can reach your fitness goals or live life without pain holding you back.

Every product is produced entirely in our facilities in Germany with the guidance of doctors, clinics, and orthopaedic technicians.

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