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Best and Worst Ab Exercises when you have back pain

February 13, 2019 3 min read

Best and Worst Ab Exercises when you have back pain

Abdominal strength is a key to decreasing back pain, but how do you build that strength when you have back issues?

Abdominal exercises should

  • Build strength and shape to your lower stomach
  • Help support the lower spine
  • Work in tandem with the pelvic floor
  • Naturally recruit deep and intermediate abdominals
  • Assist food digestion
  • Breathing efficiency

Unfortunately there are a few abdominal exercises that increase or cause back pain – sit ups, crunches and some version of plank exercises. These exercises can cause unnecessary pressure against the spine and lower body organs.

The following abdominal exercises are the best for building abdominal strength and decreasing back pain.

Dead Bug

Allows movement of hips and arms without moving the spine

  1. Lie flat on your back with arms extended towards the ceiling;
  2. Bring knees up until the hips are at 90 degrees – keeping the knees bent;
  3. Exhale hard to bring the rib cage down and make the whole back rest on the floor;
  4. Extend one foot by straightening the hips and knee and bring it slightly above the ground;
  5. Avoid arching the back – keep the lower back firmly on the floor, and
  6. Slowly bend the leg and return it to starting position, repeating the cycle for each leg.

Leg Flutters

Activates the lower abdominal muscles placing less pressure on the spine.

  1. Lie flat on the back keeping the legs straight;
  2. Place both arms under your butt and lift the legs until the hips are at a 90 degree angle;
  3. Slowly bring one leg down until the heels almost touch the floor, and then raise it as you lower the other foot, and
  4. Repeat until you have completed as many as you can.

Bird Dog

Activates the entire core – abdominals, lower back and gluteus muscles. The bird dog requires a little coordination.

  1. Kneel on the floor and place hands on the floor shoulder-width apart;
  2. Keep the back straight and tighten the abdominal muscles;
  3. Extend one arm straight out in front of you and simultaneously extend the opposite leg until it’s aligned with the hips and the back – hold position for 5 to 10 seconds;
  4. Slowly lower the arm and leg to starting position, and
  5. Complete repetitions for one side then switch sides and do the same number of reps.

Reverse Curl Up

Helps control the lower abdomen and support the low lumbar spine.

  1. Push your lower back against the floor during each repetition, you should not be able to put your hands under your back;
  2. Do not let your feet come up during the movement, keep knees flexed and close to your glutes;
  3. Keep your head down and bring knees towards your head, head doesn’t move towards your knees,
  4. Avoid working your hip flexors, do not let your legs come past perpendicular to the floor on the way down.

Reverse curls ups will also aid good breathing, rather than accentuating bad breathing patterns.

Exercise Ball Crunches

These do not put any pressure on the spine.

  1. Lay on an exercise ball, resting the body on it from the upper buttock to the middle back;
  2. Keep the knees bent and place your hands behind the head;
  3. Lower the head and shoulders as low as you can, tighten the abdominal muscles and raise the upper torso, and
  4. Lower the upper torso again and repeat the movement.

Set a timer for 30 seconds for each exercise and repeat 3 times. Doing these exercises consistently will increase core muscle strength without causing lower back pain. With time, existing back pain could disappear.

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