7 Best Lower Back Kettlebell Exercises (with Pictures!)

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
November 2, 2022

The lower back, located between the lowest part of the rib cage and the upper part of the buttocks, is responsible for keeping the body upright. The core, or body stabilizer, consists of lower back muscles and abdominals. It connects the upper and lower body and is continually engaged throughout the day.

Because every functional movement depends on the core, strengthening the lower back is essential to general health and fitness. Kettlebells are among the best options for stability-based and balance-challenging workouts that are usually utilized to strengthen the lower back and engage the body's stabilizer muscles.

The kettlebell is a unique piece of gym equipment that lifters can handle easily for complex routines more than what is possible with dumbbells or barbells. In addition, one can use kettlebells to perform exercises involving pulling, pushing, carrying, swinging, throwing, and other exercises that exhibit functional movements.

Lower Back: Anatomy and Functions

The lower back is one of the body's most complex sets of bones, joints, nerves, and muscles. As a result, it is a sturdy and highly flexible body part that can move in any direction.

The lumbar spine comprises five bones, known as L1 to L5, and are the largest ones in the entire spine. It supports the body's weight, allows for a wide range of movements, and surrounds and protects the spinal cord. 

lower back muscles

Three major muscle groups are attached to the lumbar spine: the latissimus dorsi, the paraspinal, and the iliopsoas muscles.

The latissimus dorsi, or the lats, is the broadest muscle in the body with a triangular shape that covers the middle and lower back almost entirely. This muscle allows an individual to pull up his body weight, bend to the side, and lift the rib cage to assist in breathing.

The iliopsoas consists of three muscles that help stabilize and flex the hips and lower back as we squat, run or walk. It is the strongest hip flexor and assists in the external rotation of the thigh. The other three muscles located along the length of the spine are the paraspinals. These muscles help the body bend to the side, extend, rotate and maintain an upright body posture.

The diaphragm attaches to the first two lumbar vertebrae and assists the other muscles in stabilizing the spine by increasing internal abdominal pressure during balancing and loading tasks. Other muscles that help strengthen and stabilize the lower back are the abdominals, glutes, and hamstrings.

Lower Back Pain and Associated Disability

According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), based on a Global Burden of Disease study, lower back pain (LBP) is a common global problem with a prevalence of about 7.5% of the world's population or about 577 million people in 2017. In addition, LBP has been identified as the leading cause of years lived with disability (YLD) since 1990.

Although there is evidence that social, biological, and psychological variables influence LBP and its related impairment, there is no single identifiable cause for the pain in around 85-95% of patients suffering from LBP.

Though numerous therapy methods are available for lower back pain and discomfort –degenerative bone or disc disease, arthritis, and stenosis are all disorders that can impact the lumbar spine. However, the symptoms of these diseases can be alleviated by strengthening the lower back and surrounding muscles with stretches and exercises.

Why Kettlebell Exercises for the Lower Back?

Having a strong lower back is critical because it serves as the foundation for the rest of the body's functions and capabilities. However, the lower back is often neglected as most people's strength training routine frequently focuses on the arms, chest, upper back, abs, glutes, and legs.

Although kettlebell exercises are used to prevent and treat lower back pains, advanced weightlifters utilize them to increase range of motion, improve core strength and balance, and develop movement fluidity in squats or deadlifts.

Kettlebell exercises are excellent routines to spice up workouts that enhance mobility and range of motion. Several kettlebell workouts include more complex actions to help develop functional movements. Some exercises challenge a person's center of gravity while also strengthening core strength and balance, while others add a cardio aspect to resistance training.

Best Kettlebell Exercises for the Lower Back

If you have lower back problems, consult a doctor before performing any of the exercises indicated here, and bear in mind that some of these are better suited for advanced lifters.  Exercises below are listed in order of difficulty: beginner to advance.  It is highly recommended that the more advanced variations not be attempted without proper coaching from an expert.

1. Kettlebell Glute Bridge

Grab a kettlebell by the horns and lie face up on the floor. With feet hip-width apart, bend the knees and position the heels directly below them. Place the kettlebell on the abdomen just below the navel. Hold the kettlebell on the navel securely until the end of the exercise. 

This can also be done with dumbbells, pictured below:

glute bridge

Next, lift the buttocks by extending the hips until the thigh is straight with the trunk. Hold for a second while squeezing the glutes and bring the hips back to the starting position. Repeat.

2. Kettlebell Good Morning

Grab a kettlebell by the horns using an underhand grip and bring it over the back of the head, letting the weight rest on the middle of the upper back. Stand with the feet shoulder-width apart and push the buttocks out. 

kettlebell good morning

Keep the back straight and bend the body from the hips until it's almost parallel to the floor while keeping the weight on the heels. Knees can bend slightly. Lift the body back to the starting position while maintaining a straight back. Repeat.

3. Single-Arm Kettlebell Deadlifts

Single-arm deadlifts require more balance than a standard deadlift and engage more stabilizing muscles. As a result, they are better for strengthening your lower back because they need more core stability.

kettlebell single arm deadlift

Stand with the feet hip-width apart. Grab the handle of the kettlebell with an overhand grip using one hand. Bend the body at the hips and knees, lowering the weight to the ground while maintaining a straight back. With the kettlebell a few inches off the ground, extend the knees and hips slowly back to the starting position and repeat for a specified number of repetitions. 

4. Bird Dog with Kettlebell

This exercise will be a real challenge for the abdominal and lower back muscles as the individual tries to maintain balance and keep his center of gravity from shifting on either side of the body.

Begin with the hands and knees on the bench. The hands should be directly under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Grab a kettlebell to the side of the bench with the right hand. Contract the abdominal muscles and lift the kettlebell forward while extending the left leg. The direction of the lift should be toward the top of the head until the arm is parallel to the floor.

The arm and leg should form a straight line with the body at the top of the motion. Avoid rotating the hips while maintaining tightness of the abdominal muscles, and keep the back straight at all times. Reverse the movement by lowering the arm and the leg at the same time. Repeat the action for the desired number of repetitions, then do the same for the other arm and leg.

5. Bird Dog - Row with Kettlebell

Place the hands and knees on the bench. Hands should be directly under the shoulders, and knees should be directly under the hips. With your right hand, grab a kettlebell from the side of the bench. Extend the left leg until it's parallel to the floor and maintain its position until the end of the exercise. 

Next, contract the abdominal muscles and lift the kettlebell with a rowing motion while maintaining elbow distance as close to the body as possible. At the top of the action, the arm and leg should form a straight line with the body. 

Prevent the hips from twisting while keeping the abdominal muscles tight, and keep the back straight. Next, reverse the movement by lowering the arm to the starting while the leg remains extended. Repeat the action for the specified number of repetitions, then repeat with the other arm and leg.

6. Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swings are an excellent full-body and cardio workout that improves functional movements and promotes motion fluidity that helps the lower back adapt to explosive pressures.

russian kettlebell swing

Grab a kettlebell with two hands using an overhand grip. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend the hips and knees until the kettlebell is halfway between the legs and the hands are just below the crotch area. Extend the hips and legs explosively and swing the weight using a hip push till your arms are parallel to the floor.

Allow the weight to fall to the area between the legs, while the hips and knees return to the starting position. Allow the kettlebell to swing under the crotch to create momentum as it returns to the front. Then, repeat the movement with the same explosive hip thrust motion used at the start of the first swing.

7. Single-Arm Kettlebell Swings

This kettlebell swing variation will activate more of the abdominals, lower back, and minor stabilizer muscles as the core struggles to maintain trunk alignment during the swinging motion.

how to do a kettlebell single arm swing

Grab a kettlebell with one hand using an overhand grip and the other arm at a 45° angle away from the side of the body for increased balance. Place the feet shoulder-width apart. Bend the hips and knees until the kettlebell is halfway between the legs and the hand is below the crotch area. Extend the hips and legs explosively, then swing the weight with a hip push till the arm is parallel to the ground.

Allow the weight to descend freely to the area between the legs as the hips and knees return to their original positions. Next, let the kettlebell swing under your crotch. Then as it swings back to the front, repeat the movement using the same explosive hip thrust motion you employed at the beginning of the first swing.

Final Thoughts

The lower back is not solely reliant on the group of muscles that attach to the lumbar spine. Other muscles also play an essential role in posture and core stability and contribute significantly to a healthier lower back. Kettlebell exercises for the lower back are recommended not just to help prevent the onset of lower back pain but also to help build a stronger, more flexible core.

Kettlebell exercises have proven to be an extremely effective way of strengthening the lower back and the smaller helper muscles. They are considered by many as one of the best strength-training tools for lower back exercises that may help break plateaus or improve form and technique for their squats and deadlifts.

References

1. Williamson O, Cameron P. The global burden of low back pain. International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). 2021 July 9.

2. Sassack B, Carrier JD. Anatomy, Back, Lumbar Spine. [Updated 2022 Aug 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557616/

3. McKenzie RA, May S. The lumbar spine. Mechanical diagnosis & therapy. 1981 Jan;1:374.

4. Mertens P, Blond S, David R, Rigoard P. Anatomy, physiology and neurobiology of the nociception: a focus on low back pain (part A). Neurochirurgie. 2015 Mar 1;61:S22-34.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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