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5 Lower Back Exercises With A Barbell

Barbell workouts can offer you impressive benefits for many muscles but what are some lower back exercises you can do with a barbell?

A barbell is a long bar that can hold weight plates. It is one of the most popular types of gym equipment, and for a good reason. Barbells can play a role in many exercises for a wide variety of muscles, including your lower back muscles.

The best barbell weight for back exercises varies from exercise to exercise and individual to individual. If you are not sure which weight would be right for you, you can start with just the bar or no barbell and slowly build up from there.

Keep in mind that even though there are upsides, your injury risk is generally also higher when you do exercises with more weight/resistance. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

Particularly if you sit a lot throughout the day it is important to implement exercises that strengthen your lower back and other muscles that influence posture.

1. Good mornings

For the next back exercise, you need a barbell and a barbell rack. To do a good morning with a barbell take the following steps:

  1. Find a barbell rack and place the barbell at about chest height. Add the desired number of weight plates. If there are any safety bars adjust them to the right height.
  2. Stand under the barbell, push your shoulders up so that the barbell rests on your higher back, and hold it there with your hands.
  3. Unrack the barbell and take a few steps back so that you have room to squat. Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width.
  4. Tilt your upper body forward as far as is comfortable with a good posture (but not farther than a horizontal line). At the same time bend your knees a small amount.
  5. Return to the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.
  6. Rerack the barbell after your desired number of repetitions.

The good morning may look similar to a back squat but you go a lot less through your knees. This makes it so you focus more on training your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings and less on the rest of your leg muscles.

2. Back extensions

It is generally recommended to use the back extension machine or roman chair at your gym for this lower back exercise. Especially with the extra weight from a barbell.

To do a back extension with a dedicated machine take the following steps:

  1. Put a barbell on the ground in front of the back extension machine.
  2. Take place in the back extension machine. Keep a straight back for now. Make sure you are locked in place safely.
  3. Slowly bend down as far as you can while keeping your back straight. The bending movement comes from your hips, not your lower back.
  4. Pick up the barbell hold it against your chest or another comfortable upper body area.
  5. Move up your upper body in a controlled motion until your body is in a straight line.
  6. Alternate between the positions in step 3 and step 5.

The most popular way to make back extensions weighted and in turn more challenging for your lower back muscles is a weight plate but you can definitely use a barbell effectively.

3. Romanian deadlifts

To do a Romanian deadlift with a barbell take the following steps:

  1. Set up a rack with a barbell at a height just below where your barbell is if you stand up straight with the barbell in your hands. Add the desired number of weight plates.
  2. Grab the barbell with a pronated grip which means with your hand palms pointing downward/backward. Unrack the barbell and take a few steps back so that you have room for the exercise. Stand up with your feet at more or less shoulder width and your knees slightly bent.
  3. Slightly tilt your upper body forward as far as you can without bending your back or knees or until the bar is right below knee height. The weight plates should not hit the ground.
  4. Slowly move back into the position of step 2.

Good technique is important in any exercise to avoid injuries but especially so for Romanian deadlifts. Before trying to deadlift the heaviest weights it is smart to improve your technique first by starting with just the bar or no barbell at all.

The Romanian deadlift focuses more on your hamstrings and glutes and less on your other leg muscles compared to the regular deadlift. So depending on your training goals you can also consider the regular deadlift for training your lower back muscles.

4. Supermans

In contrast to the previous exercises, you have to use the barbell alone for supermans. You can’t load it with weight plates. To do a superman exercise with a barbell take the following steps:

  1. Lie down on your stomach on the floor with your arms stretched forward, a barbell in your hands, and your legs stretched backward so that your body is in one straight line.
  2. Move your arms and legs upward. Your weight will rest on your hips. Keep looking downward during the movement.
  3. Hold this position for a few seconds.
  4. Move back into starting position in a controlled motion.

The superman can be a no-equipment exercise you can use to train your lower back at home. By holding a barbell you make the exercise more challenging. This can in turn lead to more and faster muscle gain.

If you do want to use equipment to make this exercise more challenging on top of a barbell in your hands you can wear a pair of ankle weights.

5. Hip thrusts

Hip thrusts are similar to glute bridges but instead of doing them on the ground, you will need a bench or any other stable object of the right height. To do a hip thrust take the following steps:

  1. Sit right in front of the bench or other object you will use with your back slightly over the edge. Make sure the object is stable. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width in a position where your knees will be at a 90-degree angle in the next step. Hold a barbell on your body at the hip level.
  2. Move up your hips until your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
  3. Slowly lower your body again.

Hip thrusts mainly engage your glutes but also your lower back and hamstring muscles to some extent. Even more so with the extra weight from the barbell.


Matt Claes

Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.