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Strengthen Lower Back

What are good abdominal exercises for someone who has a bad back and shouldn't do sit-ups?

Halle Clarke (New York, NY) on Jan 23, 2012
A lot of conditions fall under the category of a "bad back" There is scoliosis, lordosis, stenosis, SI dysfunction, general weakness and other disc pathologies, to name a few. How one should strengthen the core varies on the medical reason for the bad back. Because you have been toldnot to do sit ups, I am going to assume that that recommendation was made in order to have you avoid flexion and/or compression in your lower back. There are variety of ways that Pilates strengthens the core through stabilizing the pelvis and low back and therefore minimizing compression. Unfortunately, it's not so much one magical exercise but a relearning of how to properly engage the abdominal muscles in a way that doesn't irritate your condition. If you wanted to start with one very simple exercise, you could try belly breaths. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your pelvis in neutral. That means that your lower back is not pushed into the floor, nor is it arched way up. In most people there is just a sliver of light under their lower backs. From here, breathe in, allowing your belly button to rise up. Then exhale, slowly drawing your belly to your spine without moving your back or pelvis. Do this ten times to awaken the many layers that make up your core musculature. Do not engage the muscles too quickly or too forcefully or you will be missing the deeper contractions that support your spine. Have fun!
Franklin Antoian (Delray Beach, FL) on Jan 23, 2012
Good abdominal exercises for someone who has a bad back and should not do sit-ups include bridges, planks and half-crunches. In a half-crunch, just bring your shoulders off the floor and go back to starting position.
James Weaver (Milford, CT) on Jan 23, 2012
The only time that I did sit-ups is when I was in the military. I don't recommend doing sit-ups, ever. The best exercises are crunches. When you do a crunch properly, there is no strain on your back. In order to do a crunch properly, you must have your back flat on the floor or on a mat. Place your hands behind your head for support. You should only lift your head, shoulders and upper back off the floor. As you are raising up you should be looking up at the ceiling and your chin should be pointing up as well. If your chin is touching your chest, then you are pulling on your neck muscles and that is not good. You will feel a slight strain on your neck when you do it correctly because you are only supporting your head with your hands. You can also work on your abs while standing in line at the bank or grocery store by simply contracting your ab muscles.
Charles Bell (Knoxville, TN) on Jan 23, 2012
Use a stability ball. This can take pressure off the problem area. Some other exercises that can be done by people with back issues include modified planks, which put pressure on the legs.
Bill Ross (Littleton, CO) on Jan 23, 2012
Your best exercise is going to be a plank on your knees. Then advance to a plank on your toes. You must make sure your core is fully engaged every time. Keep your back as flat as possible during the entire time. Your goal should be to hold the plank position for 60 seconds. There are many advanced versions of this exercise when this becomes too easy.
Andrea Metcalf (Chicago, IL) on Jan 23, 2012
A bad back is usually an indicator or a weak back side, including hamstrings and glutes. It is best to work on stretching the hip flexors and strengthening the glutes and hamstrings with bridging exercises. Check out free videos on my website for back pain exercises.
Jaime Marizan (New York, NY) on Jan 23, 2012
Lie face-up with both legs bent on the floor. Do a pelvis tilt up and down for two sets of 15 reps. Then move on to doing a pelvic bridge. Slowly raise both hips, creating an arch on the lower back.
Dan Kritsonis (Bellevue, WA) on Jan 23, 2012
Keep in mind that even the safest abdominal exercises can cause back pain if performed with poor form. Fortunately, there are numerous abdominal exercises, which, if performed correctly, will not hurt your back. To protect the back, your core muscles must be actively engaged. It helps if you contract your abdominal muscles by drawing your navel toward your spine. stretching your back, neck and hip flexors prior to abdominal exercise can relax these areas, which will make it easier to activate your abdominal muscles. Side Plank: Lie on your right side with your knees bent. Lean on your right elbow, and place your left hand on your left hip. Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, lift your right hip from the floor. Perform eight repetitions, and then switch sides. Reverse Curl: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Lift your feet from the floor, and adjust your legs so that they are in a table top position, with your shins parallel to the ceiling and your calves parallel to the floor. Imagine you are doing a pelvic tilt. Contract your abdominal muscles to lift your hips off the floor. Perform 12 to 15 repetitions. The Cat: Kneel on your hands and knees. Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, draw your belly in, tilt your pelvis and round your back. Inhale to return. Perform 15 repetitions. The Pelvic Tilt: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, hollow the abdominal area, and tilt your pelvis, so that you form a hollow bowl between your pelvis and your navel. The Crunch: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place the tips of your fingers at the edge of your head. Do not interlace them, because this causes you to pull on your neck. With your head on the floor, inhale and perform a small nod. This will put your neck in the correct position. As you exhale, draw your belly in and lift your head and shoulders from the floor. Think of bringing your rib cage toward your pelvis. Hold the position for one second and take a small breath in, without allowing your belly to protrude. Exhale and return. While this breathing pattern may seem unusual, it helps solve a problem that often occurs during crunches. Many people allow their ribs to pop forward during the return movement, thereby putting strain on the back. The exhalation helps depress the rib cage, making the exercise safer. Perform as many repetitions as you can perform without feeling strain on your neck. Oblique Curl :Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place your right foot on your left knee, and use the same head support position used in the crunch. Inhale and allow your left hip to sink into the floor. Exhale and lift your upper torso from the floor, rotating towards your right leg. Inhale to hold for one second. Exhale to return.