No Weak Links
It's the weak link in the chain that breaks first. Don't let your lower back be yours. Compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, and good mornings certainly stimulate lower back strength, but supplemental exercises targeting the lower back directly are also recommended.
There are basically two rules when it comes to back raises:
- Keep a straight back.
- Some flexion in the bottom position can be okay, just know your limits.
The exercises below are intentionally done with a lot of lower back involvement. While they can also be performed more "glute-style," direct lower back training is crucial, hence the technical execution.
Note: If you're too weak to perform at least 15 reps with just bodyweight, stop reading right now and go train. Keep doing them in your workouts until you hit the 15-rep minimum. This info will be waiting for you when you get back.
This advanced variation uses accommodating resistance in the form of a band. As you go up, the resistance gets stronger. As you go down, the band pulls you down and you have to resist against it. If you want your lower back to handle big weights with high bar speed, it must also tolerate speed in a more isolated setting as well.
You already know you can add a dumbbell or kettlebell to the back raise, but you may not have tried this hardcore variation.
Zercher squats and deadlifts are awesome. Every single muscle must kick in to get the job done. While the back raise version of the Zercher isn't as hard, you'll definitely feel them working after a couple of hard sets.
You can either start each rep with the plates on the ground (similar to a deadlift), or perform them continuously as a squat, depending on what you want to achieve.
There's a good chance one of your legs or one side of your back is weaker than the other. This isn't good for either performance or health. The one-legged back raise is a solid exercise to address these issues.
In the deadlift and squat, the lower back has to work isometrically and the upper back has to do its part as well. Why not hit it all at once? Just get into the back raise machine, grab the barbell, and perform rows.