The 8 Best Pilates Exercises That Relieve and Prevent Lower Back Pain

The 8 Best Pilates Exercises That Relieve and Prevent Lower Back Pain

The next time you have lower back pain, roll out a mat and try some Pilates exercises. There are many moves that work wonders for instant lower back pain relief, and others that help strengthen the surrounding muscles so your back hurts less over time.

As you may know, the lower back is prone to muscle tightness and muscle weakness — two issues that can lead to pain, says Jacquline Hinton, Pilates instructor at Good Body Pilates Studio. “Some Pilates exercises help relieve lower back pain because they strengthen and stretch areas that may not have moved much, [especially] of a sedentary lifestyle,” she tells Bustle. “The movement lubricates the muscles and joints to make room for the muscles and joints to move properly and not just sit on top of each other.”

Proper body alignment is also essential for lower back health, says Amy Jordan, Master Trainer and CEO of WundaBar Pilates. Your lower back can start hurting if you tend to stand with your hips too far forward or your pelvis tucked in, she says. “Both take you out of optimal alignment for breathing and function, which causes long-term pain,” Jordan told Bustle. And this is where the benefits of Pilates for improving posture come into play.

To stay in top working order — and get rid of lower back pain — Jordan recommends doing certain Pilates exercises three to four times a week to keep everything strong and in place. Keep scrolling through some of the best options and say goodbye to those pesky back pains.



Planks are a core exercise that can strengthen your abdominal muscles to prevent back pain. According to Pilates instructor Albina Katzman, this move activates the lower abs, which in turn provide support to protect the lower back.

– Take a carpet.

– Bring your palms down.

– Keep your shoulders on your elbows and wrists.

– Draw your toes back and press the balls of your feet.

– Stay in this position.

– Aim to hold your plank for 30 seconds to a minute.

– To modify your board, put your knees on the ground.

– Repeat 3 times.



Jessica Roberts, NCPT, national master trainer at Club Pilates, says the Pilates bridge is another simple yet effective exercise that strengthens your core, hamstrings, and glutes, all in the name of lower back support. “Staying active can play a big role in back pain,” she adds. “Exercise can help promote circulation, muscle endurance, and improve strength and flexibility.”

– Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet shoulder-width apart on your mat.

– Keep your arms at your sides with palms facing and pressing down.

– Exhale to engage your core.

– Slowly roll your pelvis and spine off the mat working to articulate the spine to lift.

– Hold up high as you inhale.

– Exhale to articulate and lower your torso to the mat.

– Repeat 10 times.


dog bird

Jessica O’Toole, Pilates instructor and owner of Willow Tree Pilates studio, says this exercise is one of the best exercises you can do for your lower back. “It helps strengthen muscles in the back, legs, arms, abs, and glutes while improving coordination and mobility in the hips and shoulders,” she says.

– Begin by kneeling with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders.

– Exhale to engage your abs and pelvic floor.

– Raise your right arm forward and your left leg backward to reach in opposite directions.

– Raise them to hip and shoulder height.

– Keep your hips straight and your back straight.

– As you exhale, slowly lower your limbs down.

– Repeat on the other side.

– Do 5 to 10 repetitions.


Thigh stretch

To reduce lower back pain, remember that it helps to work on the surrounding areas. “By strengthening the back of your legs, you’ll have better posture for walking and standing,” says online Pilates instructor Lesley Logan. “By stretching your thighs, you reduce the pull exerted on your lower back by the hip flexors.”

– Kneel on a mat with your feet and knees apart.

– Press the tops of your feet on the mat.

– Reach your arms above your head.

– Maintain a flat back as you lower your arms and lean back.

– Lean back just enough to feel a stretch in your thighs without arching your back.

– Raise your arms as you return to the starting position.

– Repeat 5 to 8 times.


Supine twist with swinging knees

Hinton recommends the supine twist to reach your lower back. Note: This is one of those moves that will really feel good in the moment, so you might want to try it throughout the day.

– Lie on your back with your arms at your sides and your legs on the table.

– Keep your knees and ankles tight and your shoulders on the mat.

– Rock your knees and ankles to the right, keeping your knees stacked evenly.

– Your left hip can come off the mat, but your left shoulder can’t.

– Use your abs to bring your legs and pelvis back to the starting position.

– Repeat to the left.

– Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps.


Leg sliders

This Pilates exercise strengthens your lower abs and inner thighs, which then work together to support your lower back throughout the day, Jordan explains. “It also engages your core, arms, mid-back, hamstrings and more in a position that won’t make lower back pain worse,” she says.

– Sit on your mat.

– Lean your torso back and place your elbows/forearms down.

– Stretch your head away from the tailbone.

– Open up on your chest to create space in your lower back.

– Stretch your legs long on the mat.

– Keep your knees and toes together.

– Keeping your heels on the floor and your legs closed, slide your heels towards you.

– Bend your knees while exhaling.

– Inhale and lengthen your legs to begin.

– Do 12 repetitions.


Pelvic tilt

Hinton is also a fan of this exercise as a way to balance your hips.

– Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.

– Bring your pelvis into a neutral position with a natural arch in your lower back.

– Begin tilting your pelvis by pushing your spine into the mat.

– The natural arch in your back should disappear and there should be no space between your back and the floor.

– Reverse this and tilt your pelvis so your back is arched off the mat.

– The natural arch of the lower back should be exaggerated.

– Repeat this movement 10 times.


pelvic curl

The pelvic loop is similar to a bridge, but done in a slightly different way. “This particular exercise not only helps improve mobility in your spine, but also activates the hamstrings and glutes – two muscle groups that, when underdeveloped, frequently contribute to chronic back pain,” says Robin Long, Founder and CEO of Pilates Online. Lindywell app.

– Lie on your back with your knees bent.

– Place your feet flat on the floor about a fist apart.

– Inhale, then as you exhale begin to roll your spine off the mat into a bridge position.

– Consider lifting one vertebra at a time.

– Break upstairs.

– Exhale and roll your spine toward the mat one vertebra at a time.

– Repeat 8-10 times.

Referenced studies:

Bae, I. (2017). Effects of static stretching using a load on low back pain patients with shortened tensor fascia lata. Exercise Rehabilitation Diary, 13(2), 227-231.

OnlineCalatayud, J. (2019). Tolerance and muscle activity of core muscle exercises in chronic low back pain. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(19).

Kato, S. (2021). Association of low back pain with muscle weakness, decreased mobility function and malnutrition in older women: a cross-sectional study. PLoS One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0245879

Kong, S. (2015). The effects of recumbent bridge exercise on trunk muscle thickness in chronic low back pain patients. journal of physical therapy science, 27(7), 2073-2076.

Lin, HT. (2016). Effects of Pilates on patients with chronic nonspecific low back pain: a systematic review. J Phys Ther Sci. doi: 10.1589/jpts.28.2961.

Tateuchi, H. (2012). Balance of hip and trunk muscle activity is associated with increased anterior pelvic tilt during prone hip extension. J Electromyogr Kinesiol.

Xiao, J. (2015). Surface electromyographic signal activity of selected muscles during conventional rehabilitation exercise. Rehabilitation research and practice, 2016.

Yamato, TP. (2015). Pilates for lower back pain. Cochrane Database System Rev. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010265.pub2.


Jacquline Hinton, Pilates teacher at Good Body Pilates Studio

Amy Jordan, Master Trainer, CEO of WundaBar Pilates

Albina Katzman, Pilates Instructor

Jessica Roberts, NCPT, National Master Trainer at Club Pilates

Jessica O’Toole, Pilates Instructor, Owner of Willow Tree Pilates Studio

Lesley Logan, Online Pilates Instructor

Robin Long, Founder and CEO of Lindywell Online Pilates App

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