Back/spine specialist Stuart Mcgill has some very interesting thoughts on training the core for lower back health and performance.
His exercises involve keeping the spine in a neutral position and keeping the core braced to resist movement (sit-ups and crunches are out).
Read the below articles;
Mike Boyle (in the article ‘Joint by joint approach to training’) wrote this-
The Lumbar Spine (Stability)
The lumbar spine is even more interesting. The low back is clearly a series of joints in need of stability, as evidenced by all the work in recent years in the area of core stability.
Strangely enough, the biggest mistake I believe we’ve made in training over the last ten years is engaging in an active attempt to increase the static and active ROM of an area that obviously craves stability.
In other words folks, you don’t need to stretch your low back. Trust me, I know what you’re going to say. “It feels good to rotate.” It does feel good when I do that stretch. Check out my article, Is Rotation Even a Good Idea? (link to Is Rotation Even A Good Idea?) on my site.
Do you know what I tell coaches and trainers when they tell me “it feels good when I do X,” I tell them scratching a scab on a cut also feels good. However, the result is bleeding and scar formation.
This is how I feel about rotational stretches for the low back. They’re like scratching a scab. I believe that most if not all of the many rotary exercises done for the lumbar spine were misdirected. Both Sahrmann (Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes) and Porterfield and DeRosa (Mechanical Low Back Pain: Perspectives in Functional Anatomy) indicate that attempting to increase lumbar spine ROM isn’t recommended and potentially dangerous.
I believe our lack of understanding of thoracic mobility has caused us to try to gain lumbar rotary ROM and this is a huge mistake. So let’s get back to lifting.
The lesson here is, never, and I mean never use any kind of rotary torso machine. Eliminate all the trunk twists, Scorpions, etc. that you do to “warm-up” your low back. As McGill says, “Spare the spine.”
All this talk over the past ten years has been about core stability, not core mobility. The lumbar spine needs to be stable, not mobile. Squat tall with the bar high; deadlift with a flat back. If you have a history of low back pain, go single leg.