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Expert Stability Ball Exercises To Build a Strong Lower Back Despite Lower Back Pain

Expert Stability Ball Exercises To Build a Strong Lower Back Despite Lower Back Pain

Dr. Michael Derry, DPT, PT, OCS Jacksonville, Florida
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Building a stable, strong lower back despite lower back pain can be challenging. We want to build strength but sometimes it can be difficult when you are experiencing pain. The cause of lower back pain can vary but rest assured we can still build strength and resiliency.

I am going to review the top strengthening exercises I have used with my clients to strength your core and build a resilient lower back.

Why Should I Strengthen My Core?

Like I said above, core strengthening is imperative when it comes to strengthening your back! You should strengthen your core because not only does it reduce discomfort but it improves your ability to the things you want to do! Think, get up from a chair, play with your kids, or just feel stronger with every day movements.

Core strengthening is safe and effective for conditions such as: 

  1. Sciatica
  2. Arthritis
  3. Stenosis
Remember your core includes your lower back muscles! 

If you have a stronger core, you will be less likely to experience back pain. Or at least, be able to tolerance more activity in your day. We want to focus on strengthening our core with exercises that are not only effective, but also efficient. This is why there have been many EMG studies done on these exercises we are going to discuss in this blog. 

EMG studies are where needles are placed into a persons muscles while they are doing a specific exercise. I know, it does not sound pleasant. However, it allows us to understand and see how many muscle fibers actually fire during the course of the movement. Once this data has been gathered, we are able to understand how to guide treatment for back pain and what exercises are the most effective! It's time to bring together experts, evidence, and unbiased recommendations for the treatment of lower back pain in your home. It should not take fancy equipment or tons of time to start feeling better. Pain relief comes from hard work with a dose of knowledge and know-how. Let's learn together, move together, and feel better together!

3 Stability Ball Exercises for Core Strengthening 

Using the exercise ball allows you to incorporate instability to help engage more core muscles in a shorter period of time. This is something I love to do with my back pain patients so we are effective and efficient so we don't have to do a lot of exercises but we can focus on a select few. If time is a thing you struggle with, know that you can do these exercises in less than 10 minutes a day! Don't let the business of life keep you away from getting rid of your lower back pain. 


The 3 exercises we are going to discuss are a plank with a stable surface, plank on a stability ball, and the stir the pot exercise. It's a great progression of difficult so start with what you can do and go from there! 

Plank on Stable Surface

Plank on a stable surface
Plank on a Stable Surface
Plank on a Stable Surface
Plank on a Stable Surface

On this exercise, you are going to do a plank on a stable surface. This can be a bed, couch, chair, or even your counter top if you are first starting out! When you are going to do is place your hands on your stable surface and then move into a plank position. Make sure that you are keeping your head level with your body and sink your hips down into the plank.

If you begin to feel a little shaky, that is completely normal. This exercise is safe for all types of people, even people with degeneration in their spine, buldging discs, and other back pain related issues. 

We are going to do this exercise for 3 sets for 30 seconds each. 

Plank on a Stability Ball 

Plank on a Stability Ball
Plank on a Stability Ball

The second exercise is going to be pretty much the same thing as the first, however this time instead of the stable surface, you are going to use the stability ball. Place your elbows on the ball and hold this position for 30 seconds. This one will likely be a good bit more difficult than the exercise before. Just listen to your body and make it work, but do not push past your limits! If this is too hard you can start on your knees and then move up to off of your knees. 

We are going to do this for the same 3 sets for 30 seconds each. 

Stir the Pot 

Stir the Pot
Stir the Pot

The last exercise is likely the hardest one. A lot of times I will show this to my clients and they roll their eyes at me thinking “there is no way I will be able to do that!” And then they try, and they surprise themselves! So again, listen to your body and try the movement. If it is too difficult, drop to your knees and give it a try. 

Start in the plank position on the ball, go ahead and cross over your hands and then as you are in the plank position, you are going to do circles with your hands. Check out my YouTube video for a closer look at this movement. Do 10 clockwise circles and then 10 counter clockwise circles. If you are having a hard time, make smaller circles. Adjust the movement to you and what feels good for your body! 


Evidence shows that exercise is a pillar for lower back pain and strength. These are some of favorite ways to build core strength to help with back pain. You don't have to get fancy, you just have to put in the work! If you take these 3 exercises and do them consistently for a couple of weeks, at least every other day, I promise you will be able to see some improvement! Just remember, everyone starts somewhere. So if you are not able to stir the pot on the first day, no worries! Just start where your body can and move up from there! You will feel so glad you did! 


Oliva-Lozano JM, Muyor JM. Core Muscle Activity During Physical Fitness Exercises: A Systematic Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jun 16;17(12):4306. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17124306. PMID: 32560185; PMCID: PMC7345922.

Dr. Michael Derry is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and board certified in orthopedics. He is very passionate about treating lower back pain and helping people build their resiliency. He has spent time assisting at universities as well as managing large clinics before starting his own practice in Jacksonville, FL.

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