If you’ve hurt your back, you’ve probably been told that keeping active is important. However, some exercises are best avoided if you want to make a speedy recovery. Here are my top exercises to avoid when you have a lower back injury.

General or Home/Sports Based Activities

Running (and jumping, hopping, skipping etc)

  • The impact with the ground increases the load through the structures of the lower back, potentially increasing pain/affecting the injury site.
  • Walking however, is generally beneficial to back pain.


  • Additional stress is loaded through the lower back with sit-ups. Sit ups are a higher level abdominal exercise, so if done before you are ready, or incorrectly, can affect your lower back injury
  • There are modifications to this exercise that you may be able to do, speak to your physiotherapist


  • Squats can overload the lower back, as your back moves into flexion in the later phases of the exercise.
  • Again, there are modifications to this exercise, and it is also a good exercise to do later in recovery. Speak to your physiotherapist about when you can begin to include squats in your rehab program.

Heavily weighted exercises in a standing position

(e.g. bicep curls, standing shoulder press)

  • The muscles of your back, including the lower back are active to keep us upright. Adding a heavy load to these muscles can sometimes cause fatigue and failure, which can then add additional load to other (possibly injured) structures in the back.

Gym exercises to avoid

Leg press

  • A flexed back position, to which an additional load is placed. The lower back is in a very vulnerable position which can affect your injury

Dead lifts

  • High level back extension strength exercise. This is an exercised for advanced strengthening of the back. Not to be

done until injury has settled, and other back strengthening ex’s have become too easy

Heavily weighted exercise in which weights are pushed skyward (e.g. shoulder press)

  • Caution to be taken to avoid any unwanted stress on the lower back as weights are lifted – be guided by your physiotherapist

Please note: Any exercise that causes more than mild discomfort is potentially affecting your injury, or the healing process of your injury. These exercises should be modified or replaced with pain free exercises achieving the same outcome.