There are plenty of reasons for wanting strong abdominal muscles, but probably the best is that it’s those core muscles that help keep you from injuring your back. The problem is that many of the most popular and best-known abdominal exercises can actually cause back pain leading people to avoid them entirely. It’s a catch-22.
The good news is that crunches and sit-ups are far from the only exercises available to help strengthen the core. There are plenty of moves you can practice and master that will engage your abdominal muscles while protecting your back from pain. In fact, there are even abdominal exercises that you can do to address pain!
One of the first things you should keep in mind is that there is no reason to rush through your ab exercises, and no prize for doing a certain number of them either. Small moves done slowly engage your muscles just as much as a bunch of reps do, but by dropping out the high intensity you reduce your chances of hurting yourself.
Focus on control and you’ll be able to feel your muscles engaging. It may feel like you’re not working as hard, but by slowing down you are eliminating the impact of momentum and increasing the amount of effort you’re putting in, and the impact you’re having.
You need to correct your mindset as much as you need to change the exercises that you choose, focusing on what’s happening with your abs rather than how fast it is happening or how hard you are working.
Whatever exercise you choose to do, make sure that you’re conscious of your form and that you’re not putting your back in a position where it is vulnerable to injury.
When sit-ups are done with a curved back, you automatically tense your lower back muscles and put pressure on the vertebrae. Instead, focus on keeping your back flat against the floor. Doing so has the dual advantage of also creating more engagement in the abs.
Though crunches, sit-ups and planks are the best known ab exercises — and when done using the tips above they present less of a danger to your back — there is still a chance that they cause pain. If they do, try a different exercise. There are plenty that engage the ab muscles without stressing your back.
The Dragon Thrust
One good option for people who are already suffering from lower back pain is called the Dragon Thrust. To try it, start by lying flat on your back on the floor with your head close to something immovable that you can hold on to. Stretch your arms above your head and extend your legs out in the opposite direction, then grab the immovable object with your hands.
Pull you knees up to your chest, then straighten your legs so that your feet are pointing towards the ceiling. This action will engage your core while at the same time protecting your lower back.
Hold this position for a count of two, then slowly bend your knees and lower your legs to the position that you started in. Repeat ten times.
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