Back school: concept, criticism and 3 exercises for beginners

back school
Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / happyveganfit

The back school helps you to relieve back pain and prevent it. We explain how she does it and show you three exercises.

Almost every one of us knows back pain. They are insidious: sometimes they last for several days, sometimes they disappear after a few hours. The main reasons for back pain are lack of exercise and an unhealthy posture.

What is the back school?

“Back school” describes a holistic course program that aims to prevent back pain.

Why “school”? Participants should learn how to live in a back-friendly way, so to speak. This not only includes sitting correctly at the workplace, but also, for example, relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation or autogenic training. There you will get information on how to cope with pain and stress. Because if you reduce your stress, it also reduces your pain.

The back school concept is holistic in that it attempts to include all aspects relevant to back health: the body, but also the psyche and social factors. This approach is called “bio-psycho-social”.

This is how you learn at the back school:

  • how back pain occurs
  • how to be aware of your body
  • how to make sure you get enough exercise
  • how you behave in a back-friendly way in your everyday life, whether in the office or when carrying heavy things,
  • how you can use everyday objects such as bicycles or office chairs in a beneficial way for your back and
  • how to relax your back

That’s what back school is all about

Staying in one pose for a long time can impact your back health.
Staying in one pose for a long time can impact your back health.
(Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / StartupStockPhotos)

Regular exercise is important for a healthy back. Keeping still can increase the pain. If you already suffer from chronic pain, you should seek medical advice before beginning back training.

These ten rules are the basis of back training:

  1. Try to keep your back straight.
  2. Move regularly.
  3. Get regular exercise like running, cycling, or swimming.
  4. Remember to crouch when you bend down.
  5. Don’t lift heavy loads.
  6. When carrying, make sure to distribute the loads and carry them close to the body.
  7. When you’re standing, don’t lock your knees.
  8. Make sure you have a good sitting posture. You should keep your back straight and support your upper body.
  9. When lying down, make sure you don’t hunch over or arch your back.
  10. Exercise your spinal muscles regularly.

Criticism: old versus new back school

The back school itself has been around since the 1960s and a lot has happened in the field since then. Above all, there is criticism of the old, traditional back school: This approach emphasized that the back pain came primarily from mechanical stress. It was recommended to avoid certain movements and to “rest” the back in general. According to current knowledge, however, this is outdated, as a meta-study from 2016 showed.

The old back school assumed that damaged discs were a common cause of back problems. In fact, as we know today, almost all complaints are caused by muscles, ligaments and vertebral joints. In retrospect, the effectiveness of the old back school could never be proven.

From these findings, the “New Back School” was born. There have been common standards for this since 2006, but the term “back school teacher” is not protected. Therefore, find out more from your health insurance company or medical specialist if you are unsure about the seriousness of a provider.

For the information in this guide, we refer to the new back school, because its effectiveness is well proven. The Federal Association of German Back Schools, for example, refers to a study that was able to show that people with chronic but non-specific back pain could benefit from the exercises in the long term.

When and where you can do a back training program

You can improve your posture in a back training class.
You can improve your posture in a back training class.
(Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / janeb13)

The back school is ideally a preventive measure. It’s about preventing pain before it even happens. But even after a herniated disc or chronic diseases, back school can be a useful rehabilitation measure in consultation with your doctor.

  • We present three exercises for your own training.
  • You can also do a back training program at home with the help of YouTube videos or textbooks. (Here you can find a free training session from the Knappschaft health insurance fund, for example.) Make sure that the sources of the videos are reputable and trustworthy. If you are unsure, talk to your doctor.
  • Ask your health insurance company about offers for back schools in your area. The advantage of a professional course is that a trainer can respond to your individual questions and improve your posture during the exercises. In addition, many health insurance companies subsidize the courses.

Also exciting: Experts explain what happens in the body when you sit too much

Back school: 3 simple exercises

Our exercises help you to strengthen your chest, abdominal and back muscles. If you repeat the training units of the back school for about five minutes every day, this should prevent back pain. If you exercise at least once a week, such as cycling or running, this also supports your muscles.

Are you still looking for the right sport? Browse through our guides on the subject. Slow jogging, for example, is easy on the joints and dancing makes you happy. If you find it difficult to find time to exercise at the weekend alongside your job, we have tips for you on how to do exercise during your lunch break.

1. Back stretch

This is how you can stretch your back.
This is how you can stretch your back.
(Photo: Utopia/ Lisa-Marie Müller)
  1. For this back training exercise, you first stand up straight with your knees slightly bent.
  2. Raise your left leg and right arm sideways and lengthen them.
  3. Hold the position for ten seconds.
  4. Repeat this exercise twice.
  5. Then switch to the other leg and arm.
  6. Repeat the exercise a total of three times.

2. Stretch your back

Back school: This is how you can stretch your back.
Back school: This is how you can stretch your back.
(Photo: Utopia/ Lisa-Marie Müller)
  1. Stand in front of a wall. Your face should be about 16 inches from the wall.
  2. You should stand as stable as possible: your feet are next to each other and your knees are slightly bent.
  3. Now support yourself with your arms on the wall.
  4. Gently push your pelvis towards the wall while looking up.
  5. You should now feel a slight pull in your back.
  6. Hold the position for 15 to 20 seconds.
  7. Relax for a moment and repeat this exercise two more times.

3. Stretch your back and neck

You can also do this exercise at your desk.
You can also do this exercise at your desk.
(Photo: Utopia/ Lisa-Marie Müller)
  1. Sit in a chair and place your feet together.
  2. Assume an upright posture: push out your chest and pull in your stomach.
  3. Bend your head towards your neck.
  4. Now clasp your hands behind your head.
  5. Slowly rotate your torso to the left as far as possible, and then to the right as far as possible.
  6. Repeat this exercise 15 to 20 times.

Tip: This back school exercise is suitable for in-between work routines – you can simply do it at the office desk. Also ensure good ergonomics at the workplace to offer your back even better conditions.


  • Back training: simple exercises for strong muscles
  • Back massage: tips and tricks for a relaxing massage
  • Workout at home: ideas for sport in your own four walls

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