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Back pain is a bitch.  

As someone who had back surgery and is in constant fear of being laid up on the couch for a week with a tweaked back, I know the struggle all too well.  

Which is why I don’t back squat all that often. Rather than sticking with the leg press every time I work my legs I started working these into my workouts.

All these exercises work your legs without loading up your spine with hundreds of pounds of excess weight. Don’t be fooled though, these are not easy, especially the Suspension Trainer ones.

So if you’ve been dealing with a bad back or have limited gym equipment **cough** Planet Fitness, check out these leg exercises.

13 LEG EXERCISES FOR A BAD BACK

Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

Grab a step or a bench that you can rest your foot on, it needs to be about knee height.  

Position the bench sideways.

Grab a Airex pad and put in next to the bench.

Stand in front of the pad and reach one leg behind you and rest the top of your foot on the bench.

Lower your body until your back knee touches the pad or you can’t go down any further.  

Keep a slight forward lean throughout the movement.

TIP: Finding the right distance for you is a bit of trial and error.  If your knee hurts, move your front leg forward more. If your groin hurts, move the front leg in.

Single Leg Deadlift

Stand with your feet together and a dumbbell/kettlebell in your right hand.

Move your left leg backwards so it hovers above the ground.  Keep both legs straight.

While keeping a flat back with squared hips and shoulders, inhale a breath and begin to slowly hinge at the hips.  Think drinking bird.

leg-exercises-for-bad-back-drinking-bird

Lower the weight to mid-shin or lower, pause for a second, and squeeze your right cheek and push your right leg into the ground to pull the weight back up.

After completing the reps on one side, switch the weight to the left hand and switch the leg on the ground.

TIP: If your balance is off, use a standing foam roller or an incline bench like I am here.

Goblet Squat

Stand holding a kettlebell by the handle close to your chest.

Feet shoulder width apart.

Push your hips back and then bend your knees.

Lower until your quads are parallel to the floor or lower.

At the bottom position, pause and push through your heels to return to the starting position.

Side Lunge

Stand with the knees and hips slightly bent, feet shoulder-width apart.

Keeping your head and chest up, take a slow, side step to the right. Keep your toes pointed forward.

Keep the left foot in place and shift all your weight to the right leg.  

Flexing the right knee and hip into a side lunge. Keep your upper body upright or slightly bent forward.

A straight line should form between your right foot, knee and shoulder.

Pause at the bottom and push your body to the starting position.

TIP: You might not be able to get all the way down like you would be able to with a normal squat.  Cool. Go as far down as you can.

Walking Lunge

Step forward with one leg, flexing the knees to drop your hips.

Lower yourself down until your back knee almost touches the ground. Your upper body should be upright or have a slight forward lean.

Use your front leg drive your heel through the floor to lift yourself back up.

Step forward with your rear foot, repeating the lunge on the opposite leg.

Goblet Side Lunge

Stand holding a kettlebell by the handle close to your chest.

Feet shoulder width apart.

Take a slow, side step to the right. Keep your toes pointed forward.

Keep the left foot in place and shift all your weight to the right leg.  

Flexing the right knee and hip into a side lunge. Keep your upper body upright or slightly bent forward.

A straight line should form between your right foot, knee and shoulder.

Pause at the bottom and push your body to the starting position.

Barbell Glute Bridge

Start by sitting on the ground with a loaded barbell over your legs.

Roll the bar so that it is directly above your hips, and rest your upper back on a sideways bench.  Make a 90 degree angle with your legs.

Using a folded up yoga mat or an Airex pad between the bar and your hips will reduce the unsightly pinch marks and greatly reduce the discomfort.

Keep all your weight on your heels and lift your toes if it helps.

Pushing against the bar with your hands to prevent it from rolling towards your face, drive through your heels, extending your hips vertically through the bar. Your weight should be supported by your upper back and your heels.

Extend until you form a straight line from your thighs to your chest, then reverse the motion to return to the starting position.

Suspension Trainer Glute Bridge

Lying on your back, insert one foot at a time into hanging suspension trainer handles.

Bend at the knees making a 90 degree angle.

Maintaining balance with your hands on the floor, drive your hips up, forming a straight line from your thighs to your chest.

Pause and feel the contraction in your glutes then slowly lower yourself to the starting position.

Suspension Trainer Single-Leg Glute Bridge

Setup the same as a Suspension Glute Bridge but only lock in one foot.  Have the nonworking foot extended out straight.

Same movement too.

Suspension Trainer Bulgarian Split Squat

Setup like you did for the bench version, just put your back foot in the suspension trainer handle.

Dumbbell Deficit Reverse Lunge

Grab a set of dumbbells and stand on a step or block that raises you a few inches above the floor. A 45lb plate would work too.

Step back with your right foot and lower your body until your left thigh is parallel to the floor and your rear knee nearly touches the floor.

Slightly lean forward with your upper body.  

Return to the starting position by driving the heel of your front leg into the ground.

Rinse and repeat, then switch legs.

Landmine Squat and Press

Feet should be hip-distance apart and sitback on your heels. Holding onto the landmine with one hand at or just below your collarbone.

Squat down, by pushing your hips back first, then bending your knees.

Hold the bottom position for a 1 count.

Pushing through your heels to stand up and push the bar overhead.

Lower the bar back to the starting position. Rinse and repeat.

Landmine Reverse Lunge

Feet should be hip-distance apart and sitback on your heels. Holding onto the landmine with both hands at or just below your collarbone.

Step back with your right foot and lower your body until your left thigh is parallel to the floor and your rear knee nearly touches the floor.

Slightly lean forward with your upper body.  

Push through your front heel to stand up.

Rinse and repeat, then switch legs.

Wrap It Up B

If you’ve been suffering with a bad back for a while, give some of these a try.  Hell, even if your back is fine, these are some great alternatives to regular squats and deadlifts. These moves help build muscle, strength but most importantly won’t leave you with back pain for the next week after.