What Are The Best Ab Exercises For Back Pain?
If you suffer from lower back pain, doing ab exercises is often an important part of your recovery. However, not all ab exercises are created equally.
Watch this video to learn 7 ab exercises for back pain and how to progress them as you get stronger.
Table of Contents:
- Why Are Ab Exercises Important For Back Pain?
- Exercise 1: The Pelvic Tilt
- Exercise 2: Single Leg Marching With Abdominal Bracing
- Exercise 3: Double Leg Marching With Abdominal Bracing
- Exercise 4: Abdominal Bracing with Hip Extension
- Exercise 5: Double Bent-Knee Lifts
- Exercise 6: Double Leg Raises With Knees Straight
- Exercise 7: Abdominal Bracing with Bent Knee Fallout
- Need More Help For Lower Back Pain?
Why Are Ab Exercises Important For Back Pain?
If you have lower back pain, abdominal strengthening is crucial.
Your abdominals are part of your core muscles that support your lower back (lumbar spine).
However, when most people do ab exercises for back pain, they focus on their six-pack muscles.
Those muscles, your rectus abdominis, are part of the outer core – the muscles that move your trunk.
However, you also have a deeper inner core responsible for stabilizing your trunk.
Strengthening these deeper ab muscles is essential for lower back pain in order to stabilize the spine.
You don't need to do sit-ups; in fact, sit-ups are bad for your lower back.
Crunches are better, but they focus more on trunk movement.
Planks are an isometric ab exercise that helps stabilize your trunk.
However, daily life involves stabilizing your spine while moving your legs.
So the 7 ab exercises for back pain in this post involve stabilizing you spine while moving your legs.
Exercise 1: The Pelvic Tilt
The first exercise is an isometric exercise much like the plank.
Although this exercise doesn't involve moving your legs, it's the base for all of the other exercises.
Therefore, it's a good idea to start with a pelvic tilt.
To do a pelvic tilt, lie on the floor with your knees bent. If you can't get on the floor, doing it on a bed is an acceptable alternative, but the floor is best.
Tilt your pelvis toward your head as show, trying to flatten your lower back into the floor.
You should use your side abdominal muscles called your obliques in order to do this.
(Permission: Dr. Joe Muscolino. www.learnmuscles.com – art work Giovanni Rimasti)
Hold the pelvic tilt position for 10 seconds, repeating 10 times.
When you can do this, you're ready to move on to the next exercise.
Exercise 2: Single Leg Marching With Abdominal Bracing
The second exercise involves lifting one leg at a time while keeping your lower back flat.
To do this, start by doing a pelvic tilt as shown in Exercise 1.
Next lift one leg and then slowly lower it back to the floor while keeping your lower back flat on the floor.
When you can do 10 repetitions with each leg while keeping your lower back stabilized, then you're ready to progress to the next exercise.
Exercise 3: Double Leg Marching With Abdominal Bracing
The third exercise progresses to lifting one leg while holding the other in the air, thus challenging stability.
Lift one leg and then the other so that both hips and knees are at a 90 degree angle.
Then lower one leg at at time while keeping the other leg at a 90 degree angle.
Alternate legs back and forth. Make sure to keep your lower back flat on the ground and that your pelvis isn't rotating from side to side.
Once you can do 10 repetitions with each leg, you're ready for the next step.
Exercise 4: Abdominal Bracing with Hip Extension
For the fourth exercise start in the same position as the previous exercise with both hips and knees bent to 90 degrees.
Then lower one leg at a time all the way down to the floor, or as close to the floor as you can get without letting your lower back arch or pelvis rotate.
Alternate legs, working up to 10 repetitions on each leg.
Exercise 5: Double Bent-Knee Lifts
The fifth exercise lifts both legs simultaneously while keeping the lower back flat.
Start by doing a pelvic tilt to flatten your lower back on the floor. Then lift both knees at the same time to the 90-90 position.
Then slowly lower both legs at the same time to the floor while keeping your lower back flat on the floor.
This is the difficult part of the exercise. Make sure to keep your abs engaged so that your lower doesn't arch up off the floor.
When you can do 10 repetitions with good abdominal control, then you're ready to move on to the next exercise.
Exercise 6: Double Leg Raises With Knees Straight
This is the most difficult of all of the exercises in this post.
For this exercise, you'll start with your legs raised to 90 degree angle with your knees straight.
Then slowly lower your legs to the floor while keeping your abs engaged and lower back flat.
The ideal would be to get your legs all the way down to the floor, but that's pretty difficult for most people to do, even if they don't have back pain.
Only lower as far as you can without arching your lower back.
Exercise 7: Abdominal Bracing with Bent Knee Fallout
The seventh exercise focuses more on controlling lower back rotation.
The previous 6 exercises have focused more on controlling flexion and extension of the spine while flexing and extending the legs.
For this last exercise, lie with one knee bent and the other leg straight.
Do a pelvic tilt to engage your abdominal muscles and flatten your lower back into the floor.
Slowly drop the bent knee out to the side as far as you can without allowing your pelvis to rotate.
You'll be able to tell if your pelvis is rotating if you put your hands on the front of your pelvis as shown above.
If you feel your pelvis start to rotate into your fingers, you know you've gone too far.
Only drop the knee out to the side as far as you can without allowing pelvic rotation.
Repeat for 10 repetitions with one leg, and then switch legs.
So those were the 7 ab exercise for back pain.
There are a few things to keep in mind about those exercises though.
First of all, they only strengthen your abdominals, and your abs are only part of your core.
Strengthening your glutes and lower back muscles is also important for proper core stability.
Additionally. all of these exercises were done lying down. To eventually get back to doing the activities you enjoy without back pain, you need to progress past lying down exercises.
Need More Help For Lower Back Pain?
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