Any type of exercise can hurt you and cause pain when you’re doing it wrong, but some types of exercise are particularly bad for your back, even if they seem very common and completely benign.

Learn how to avoid exercises that hurt your back, so you’ll minimize any pain that you’re experiencing, and prevent future problems and pain. Whether you’ve experienced back pain or just want to make sure that you won’t, here are the exercises to avoid.

Toe Touches

Part of many aerobic exercise routines, toe touches can actually be very bad for your lower back, especially if you do them without stretching first. Touching your toes while keeping your feel straight put a lot of pressure on your spine, and they can also contribute to overstretching your ham strings and other muscles. If you experience severe pain that lasts more than a few minutes after touching your toes, you should stop exercising and see a doctor.


While they’re technically useful for core muscles, sit-ups are also one of the exercises that hurt your back. If you use your hips while doing sit-ups, you’re putting pressure on your spinal discs. Crunches can also contribute to lower back pain. Planks can be a lot better for your abdominal muscles, while also putting less pressure on your back.

Leg Lifts

Both single leg lifts and double leg raises can have a negative effect on your lower back. The problem is that you should be keeping your back completely straight while you do them, and that’s more difficult that you might think. Avoid the risk of injury by avoiding the double leg lifts, and do your best to not arch your back.


When you’re doing them wrong, push-ups are definitely one of the exercises that hurt your back. If you’re not used to them, they’re particularly dangerous if you try to do too many at once. With your elbows tucked in, always keep your spine flat and your core muscles tight in order to prevent any risk of pain or injury.

See also: 10 Fitness Hacks for Beginners

High Impact Aerobic Exercise

Doing high impact aerobic exercise on a hard surface can be really harmful to your back. If you’re already in pain, you should definitely do a different kind of workout, like pilates. Make sure that you’re keeping your back in a good position, that doesn’t add too much pressure on it if you’re going to do high impact aerobics anyway.

Squats and Lunges

If you don’t have a strong core, then lunges and squats can definitely be a problem, particularly for your lower back. In order to minimize the risk of these exercises that hurt your back, make sure that you’re always keeping your back spine while you perform squats and lunges, while also sticking your chest out.  Your knees shouldn’t extend past your toes during this type of exercise.

Behind the Neck Lat Pulldowns

While this particular gym exercise can improve your back muscles, it can also be very damaging to your shoulder. Your back should be straight while you do behind the neck lat pulldowns, which means that your shoulders have to face a lot of pressure. If you’ve already had issues with your shoulders, stick to frontal lat pulldowns.

Punching and Kicking

All contact sports can potentially be harmful to your back, so be careful when you’re punching or kicking. The biggest danger of these exercises that hurt your back is hurting your rotator cuffs. They’re the muscles that keep your shoulders in place, so any injury can result in a lot of pain and downtime.

Don't miss: When It's OK to Skip a Workout

Kettlebell Exercises

Whether you’re into kettlebell snatches or swings, you should be aware that this type of workout can be harmful to your back if you go too far. Make sure that your core muscles are strong and, if you’re a beginner when it comes to kettlebells, you’re better off exercising in a class or with the help of a professional trainer.

Torso Twists

One of the most risky moves among the exercises that hurt your back, torso twists done with the proper gym equipment put a lot of stress on your back. The risk of injury is higher for your lower back, so just skip this type of exercises and instead opt for side plank oblique crunches.