How To Do The Dorsal Raise

Woman performing dorsal raise in front of TV which shows trainer demonstrating dorsal raise
(Image credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus / Drazen Zigic)

It’s often people who work at a desk that are concerned about the risk of developing back pain. That’s valid, but really everyone should be considering their lower back and how they can protect it.

The best back exercises, like the dorsal raise, can help. Strengthening your lower back muscles with moves like this one will not only reduce the risk of injury in that area, but also increase your core strength. This creates the foundation needed to tackle heavy weights exercises in the gym, and functional strength that will benefit you throughout your daily life.

You don’t need any equipment for the dorsal raise, and it’s a move people of all fitness levels can slip into their workout routine easily. Here’s how to do it.

Dorsal Raise Benefits

The dorsal raise is a core exercise that strengthens the muscles in your lower back in particular, and there are also benefits for the glutes. Done correctly, the dorsal raise can help to improve your posture in general, and reduce the risk of suffering from lower back pain.

How To Do The Dorsal Raise

Lie face down on the floor with your hands at your temples and your shoulders relaxed. Take a deep breath in, lifting your chest off the floor using your lower back muscles and glutes. Hold briefly, then, while breathing out, slowly lower back to the floor. 

Make sure you don’t arch your neck back during the raise. Keep looking forwards, and don’t “throw” your shoulders back to aid the movement. Move slowly and with control at all times to maximise the benefits. The other key form tip is not to overextend your back. You don’t have to raise as far as you possibly can – just lift until you feel it in your lower back muscles, and then lower. 

Keep your feet on the floor when first doing the move, and once you are adept at it you can increase the move’s difficulty by raising your feet. You can also stretch your arms out in front of you, or even hold a light weight, to intensify the challenge when doing the dorsal raise.

Variation: Dorsal raise with shoulder rotation

Dorsal raise

(Image credit: Glen Burrows)

This version changes the position of your shoulders, making the muscles in your upper back work harder.

Lie face down on the floor with your arms held out to the sides so your body forms a T-shape. As you lift your chest off the mat, rotate your hands backwards so your thumbs point towards the ceiling, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. 

Dorsal raise step 2

(Image credit: Glen Burrows)
Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.