I am a firm believer that strengthening and conditioning the core, back and leg muscles is the best way to guard against getting back pain.
If you’re prone to having your back “go out”, then these exercises are the best way to guard against recurrence. Don’t wait until you get degenerative disc disease, because once you reach this point the chances of living a pain- free life take a big nosedive. The reason is that the best exercises for strengthening your back are more risky for those with disc degeneration.
What typically happens is the disc degeneration patient will naturally stay cautious or apprehensive and will avoid back exercises for fear of re-injuring his back. This eventually leads to back muscle weakness and loss of muscle coordination–precursors for back injury and chronic pain.
So, if you don’t have back pain or degenerative joint disease (weak, thinning and/or herniated discs with accompanying bone spurs and cartilage degeneration) consider yourself lucky. Make sure your exercise regimen involves engaging the primary muscles of the trunk primarily, and the whole body, secondarily.
Do functional exercises which force the muscle groups to work synergistically rather independently. Such exercises can mimic common body movements; for example, carrying something on your shoulder while walking.
In strengthening the back, I like to do squats using a 20 lb bar on my back with feet apart in different distances.
Throwing a 12 lb. medicine ball using your whole upper body is another great functional exercise. Get a partner and have him stand 10 feet to your right. Throw the ball to your partner while using your core as well as arms. This simple exercise will strengthen your abs, your paraspinals, arms, and even your leg muscles.
Next, use a Freemotion or similar cable-weight machine where you can raise an arm above your head. With both hands, grip the cable handle and swing it down towards your feet, as though you were chopping wood with an axe. Boy, this is a great exercise as you will feel just about every muscle in your back, arms and chest work together to move the weight.