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How to Alleviate Lower Back Pain During Ab Exercises (+ Freebie!)

reduce lower back pain during ab exercises

Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you work, you never see the results you want with your core? Or maybe you continually experience lower back pain during ab exercises?

I have had so many clients tell me they have *never* completed core work without feeling some kind of strain in their back.

Your core work does not have to be, and should not, be that way.

That strain you’re feeling is a cue from your body that you should listen to – something needs to adjust. The first two things we can look at: adjust your form and/or change your exercises.

Oftentimes, when people think of doing abdominal work, their brains immediately go to some version of crunches or sit ups. But for some people experiencing low back pain, a "crunch" position — or spinal flexion — can aggravate their low back and increase pain. Instead, focus on exercises where you keep your head, shoulders and upper back connected to the mat and your spine in a neutral position (the natural curvature of your back away from the floor). Some of the best ab work you can do is stability based, with no crunching and keeping your neutral spine. These exercises strengthen your deeper abdominal muscles — the muscles that support your spine and posture, help alleviate low back pain, increase power, and even help you find those “flat” abs.

The stronger those deep abdominal muscles become, the more your back pain is alleviated.

Then attention to your form while performing these exercises is a driving factor in how your back will feel.

  • Keep your neutral spine – avoid arching your back away from the mat, as well as avoid imprinting the spine, or pressing the low back into the mat. You want to maintain a small, natural space between your low back and the mat.

  • Keep wrapping your abdominals – exhale like you are blowing out birthday candles and keep your attention on your low core. You want to make sure you don’t start “doming” your abs, or pushing your low belly out towards the ceiling

  • Don’t flare your ribcage – think about drawing your rib cage closer to your hip bones

  • Keep your legs (and/or arms) moving in a controlled range of motion – it doesn’t matter how low your legs go if you lose control of your pelvis

  • Soften your neck and shoulders – avoid gripping with too much tension

Move through the exercises slowly to start, and the moment you feel your spine or pelvis start to change shape, pause and reset. When you focus on your precision of movement, you’ll find better results.

Here’s a free video guide that teaches you how to identify and avoid common mistakes that can stop you from building a strong core and can cause you pain.


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