Emma OBayuvana demonstrates the cat/cow pose as part of a daily mobility challenge.

Lower back pain: the best mobility exercises to stretch and strengthen a sore back

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Lower back pain from sitting at your desk for too long? Try these simple mobility moves. 

Back pain comes with a lot of fear. Feel it and you either assume that you’re aging before your time or have some irreparable damage. Don’t freak out – most of the time, back pain can be attributed to limited mobility, which can be fixed with the right intel.  

While sitting at our desks is to blame, it has less to do with your slumping posture and more to do with the sheer amount of time we spend in this said position. “A problem that we have, as a society, is we spend a really long time at our computers,” agrees strength and conditioning coach Pennie Varvarides. “It’s not that sitting in that position specifically is bad. What’s bad is only ever sitting in that position, as it teaches your body that it doesn’t need to move through other postures.” 

When you then try to ‘improve’ your positioning, by standing up taller or working out, you may notice a lot of back pain. The worst thing you can do for lower back pain as a result of reduced mobility is to go on bed rest though.

“Moving is particularly good for low back pain – especially doing stretches specifically for back pain. If you haven’t done something specific, such as fallen or had a spine injury, getting out of your chair is the most beneficial thing you can do,” says Pennie. Although it feels scary to move your spine about, it should be able to move in all directions. “The spine is made up of lots of vertebra because it is designed to bend, move and twist in lots of ways,” says Pennie.

A woman working from home sitting on her lounge floor with her back against the sofa and laptop on her legs in a slouching position

Improving mobility isn’t just about pain reduction though – it also makes your workouts and day-to-day life easier. “It comes down to movement freedom,” says Pennie. “If someone can’t touch their toes because their back is so stiff, it’s annoying, sure. But it also makes movements such as picking stuff up off the floor, playing with their kids, or putting on shoes way harder. These are things we have to do all the time that are suddenly more difficult because you’ve lost basic human function.”

Along with getting up regularly, Pennie suggests a few moves that will ease the spine and hips to improve the mobility in your lower back and help you feel less pain. “Ideally, you would have your spine move in all of the directions, every day. That doesn’t mean you have to spend hours working on mobility – maybe 10 minutes a day is enough,” she says. 

Here are four moves mobility moves to help reduce lower back pain. 


“Most people don’t do cat-cow very well, because they move dramatically and quickly. It should be about slowly curling the spine through the positions,” says Pennie. 

  1. Start in an all fours-position with your shoulders directly over your wrists and your hips directly over your knees. 
  2. Starting from the bottom of your spine, slowly curl your spine towards the ceiling, pushing away from the floor and curling your neck in.
  3. Inhale as you slowly unravel to arch the spine, tilting the head towards the ceiling and opening your chest. 

Repeat for 30 seconds

Jefferson curl

“Similarly to the cat-cow, it’s about getting the spine to lead the movement,” says Pennie. Although this may look and feel like everything you’re told not to do when deadlifting, it’s a great way to encourage spinal flexion. Once you’re familiar with the movement, try adding a light weight to encourage the pull through your back. 

  1. Stand up tall with the feet together. 
  2. Start the movement by tucking your chin in towards your chest and rolling down through the neck. 
  3. Continue rounding through the shoulders then slowly through the spine, until your upper body is folded as closely to your legs as possible. Think of folding down one vertebrae of your spine at a time.
  4. Keep the legs straight through the movement to feel the pull through your hamstrings. 
  5. Unroll slowly back up to standing. 

Repeat for 30 seconds


This builds strength through the lower back and hips, as well as stretching your posterior chain. You can also add weight into your left hand when you’re comfortable with the exercise. 

  1. Take your feet into a stance just wider than hip-width and point both feet 45° to your right.
  2. Place your right hand inside your right knee and your left hand up towards the sky. Keep eye contact with your left finger tips.
  3. Bend your right knee and slowly lower your right hand down the inside of your leg while your left hand remains over head. 
  4. Push back up to standing. 

Do 10 reps each side

Cross legged side bends

This move bends your spine sideways, rather than forwards and backwards, to train a different movement pattern. Once you’ve nailed the form, hold a weight on the side you’re leaning towards to gain strength, along with mobility. 

  1. Stand up straight and place your left foot in front of your right foot with the outer edges touching. 
  2. Bend your left knee slightly and start to slowly lean your weight to the left. 
  3. When you’ve bent as far as you can, pull yourself back to the starting position. 

Repeat 10 times each side

Check out more of the How-To videos in the Strong Women Training Club to find plenty more mobility moves.

Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favourite fitness experts. If you want to further improve your mobility, Pennie’s taking on new online clients from March. 

Images: Getty / Pexels

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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