Strong abdominal muscles can help get rid of lower back pain. Unfortunately, most of the ab exercises out there — think crunches and sit ups — have been proven to cause lower back pain. If you have lower back pain, or want to avoid it, here are 5 exercises that strengthen the abdominal muscles and improve back health.
1. Dead-Bug: The dead-bug allows movement of hips and arms without moving the spine. Lie flat on your back with arms extended towards the ceiling. Bring your knees up until the hips at a 90 degree angle and keep the knees bent at a 90 degree angle as well. Exhale hard to bring the rib cage down and make the whole back rest on the floor. This is the starting position. Extend one foot by straightening the hips and knee and bring it slightly above the ground. Avoid arching the back – keep it on the floor throughout. Slowly bend the leg and return it to starting position. Repeat the movement with the opposite leg.
2. Leg lowers: This is an easier variation of the flutter kicks, it activates the lower ab muscles and puts less pressure on the spine. Lie flat on your back and keep the knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Place both arms under your butt and lift the legs until the hips are at a 90 degree angle. Slowly bring one bent foot down until the heels almost touch the floor, and then raise it as you lower the other foot. Keep alternating the legs until you’re fatigued.
3. Bird dog: This exercise activates the entire core – abs, lower back and butt muscles. The bird dog requires a little coordination but you’ll master it after a few reps. Kneel on the floor and place hands on the floor shoulder-width apart. Keep the back straight and tighten the abdominal muscles. 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 that position for 5 to 10 seconds. Slowly lower the arm and leg to starting position. Complete repetitions for one side then switch sides and do the same number of reps.
4. The Plank: You may have noticed that I mention this exercise a lot. Well, that’s because it’s one of the most effective ab exercises you’ll ever do. In my article about planks, some readers left comments saying that planks were too challenging for them. If that’s the case for you, try the kneeling planks. Holding the plank also builds core stability which makes it easier to perform other exercises. Start in the push up position – bend the arms to support the body with the forearms. Keep the hips, legs and torso aligned in a straight line. Tighten the abdominal muscles and hold that position as long as you can.
5. Swiss Ball Crunches: Unlike the regular crunches, swiss ball crunches don’t put pressure on the spine. And research shows that this exercise activates the abs muscles 40 percent more than regular crunches. Lie on a stability ball – rest your body on it from the upper butt to the middle back. Keep the knees bent and place your hands behind the head or across the chest. Lower the head and shoulders as low as you can, then tighten the ab muscles and then raise the upper torso. Lower the upper torso again and repeat the movement.
These exercises will strengthen your core muscles without causing lower back pain. In fact, if you do them consistently, existing back pain can disappear.