Sometimes abdominal exercises can feel like a no-brainer – you have back pain because you do not have core strength, but exercising these muscles hurts your back. Learn more about ab exercises that don’t hurt your back.
To solve this problem, look for movements that train your entire core – the muscles that surround and stabilize your spine, including your abdominal muscles – that will not put unnecessary stress on your back.
Are crunches bad for your back?
When you hear abdominal exercises, your first thought may be to lie on your back and start crunching. For most people, this exercise is gentle, appropriate, and effective. However, if your back is not entirely healthy, the repeated act of bending your lower back can cause problems;
What about sit-ups? Although this exercise is often mixed with crunches, they are pretty different, and sit-ups with the hinge-at-the-hip work on the hip flexors, which are muscles that run from the thighs to the lower back. If you have tight or too strong bends, it can pull on your lower spine and cause low back pain.
The best abdominal exercises that do not strain the back
Even if your back is strong enough crunches and sit-ups, you may want to skip them. Why? They are not a very functional or practical exercise, and more often than not, they are done incorrectly, which puts unnecessary strain on your neck.
Because this exercise causes you to maintain a neutral spine, it is less likely to cause back pain.
- Move your spine to a neutral position with your hands on your hips. Your feet should lie flat on the ground with your knees bent.
- Activate your abdominal muscles, exhale and stretch your right leg, and push your heel along the ground while doing so.
- Return and repeat on the left side.
- Have six to eight repetitions on each leg.
Although a little tricky at first, the bird-dog exercise promotes strength in the lower back and helps to work with balance.
- Walk on all fours, with your hands and knees on the ground.
- Simultaneously lift the left arm forward and the right leg straight back. Have your right hand and left knee on the floor to support your body.
- Lay your arm and leg back on the floor.
- Lift your right arm forward and your left leg straight back.
- Repeat six to eight repetitions on both sides.
The plank position is an ideal abdominal exercise because, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), it requires minimal movement while engaging all layers of the abdominal fascia.
- Lie face down.
- Raise your body so that you are leaning on your forearms and knees.
- Place your elbows just below your shoulders.
- Hold for 45 to 60 seconds, or as long as you can without compromising the shape.
Plank with rotation
Once you have mastered the modified plank, push yourself to a full plank, which requires balancing your toes instead of your knees. Add a thoracic rotation for extra strength-building benefits when it gets too easy.
- Lift to a high plank by balancing on your hands and toes, hands just below your shoulders.
- Press your right hand to the ground, rotate your feet and hips to the left, and lift your left arm toward the ceiling.
- Rotate the left arm down again.
- Press your left hand on the ground and repeat on the other side.
- Do three to six repetitions on each side.