Do you ever look at your abs and imagine all the sculpting and toning that could happen, if only those crunches and sit ups didn’t hurt so much? When you have a bad back, standard ab exercises are literally a pain. In fact, they can even be dangerous if you aren’t careful.
Abdominal exercises help you strengthen your core. And when your ab muscles are strong, you’re also helping take pressure off your back. You might even have less back pain altogether as a result!
Whether you have a bad back or, you know, a “bad back,” this article proves you have no excuse to not work that core. You have the power to bring out those abs and improve your range of motion!
Disclaimer: This article does not replace medical advice. If you have any back issues, consult with your doctor before exercising.
Ab Exercises For Bad Back
Here are 10 back-friendly ab exercises you can safely do with a bad back.
Lying stomach-down on the floor, extend your arms, lift your body up and hold for up to one minute. You can also put some space between your feet If it feels better on your back.
2. Stomach Vacuum Exercise a.k.a. Cat-Cow Pose
Get on your hands and knees. Make sure your shoulders are over your wrists, and your hips are over your knees. Suck in your stomach and hold this for one full cycle of breath. Then, exhale and push your stomach muscles outwards. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
3. Dead Bug
Lie on your back and bring your knees at a 90-degree angle. Extend your arms, hands facing each other, toward the ceiling. Slowly lower your right arm straight over your head, and extend your left leg so both your arm and leg are parallel to the floor. Switch sides and do at least 10 repetitions.
4. Towel Crunch
The classic crunch gets a comfortable twist for those with lower back pain. Roll up a towel and place it underneath with your lower back. Do at least 20 repetitions.
5. Bird Dog
Get on the floor on your hands and knees. Extend your right arm forward and your left leg back so they’re parallel to the floor. Hold for a second and repeat 10 times. Switch sides and repeat 5 to 10 times.
6. Tabletop Leg Press
Lie on your back and bring your knees up above your hips, forming a 90-degree angle, so your shins are parallel to the floor. Take your hands and place them on your knees. Press down so you’re contracting your abs. Release and repeat 5 to 10 times.
7. Forearm Side Plank
Place your left forearm on the floor, making sure your elbow is right underneath your left shoulder. Turn to face your left side. Lift your body up, keeping the hips up; your weight should rest on your left forearm and on the outer part of your left foot. Extend your right arm to the ceiling and hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat 5 to 10 times.
Love this exercise? Try these side plank variations that will keep your back pain-free.
Bonus 1: Standing Cross Crunch
Standing with your legs two feet apart and your hands behind your neck, bring your right leg up as you twist and touch it with your left elbow. Switch sides and repeat 5 to 10 times.
Bonus 2. Stir the Pot
Get in plank position on your forearms on an exercise ball. Slowly make controlled circular movements clockwise with your forearms on the ball. Switch directions and repeat 5 to 10 times.
Bonus 3: Swiss Ball Crunch
This one is straightforward—perform a regular crunch on an exercise ball, either with your hands across your chest or behind your neck. Do at least 20 repetitions.
There you have it! Use these easygoing, “no grunts required” abdominal exercises to strengthen your core until your bad back is no more.
How can I flatten my stomach with a bad back?
Strengthening the core doesn’t just mean doing crunches anymore. It means engaging your core gently throughout your yoga practice and simply having good posture more often through your day. Remember that your yoga practice shouldn’t increase pain in your back. If it does, stop and seek pose modification or suggestion from a trained yoga teacher or a certified yoga therapist.
Can I do crunches with bad lower back?
Straight crunches can aggravate your back pain. On top of that, it’s not an effective exercise to engage all of the muscle groups that comprise “the core.” Core strength yoga poses are much better options. As an alternative, you can try the Towel Crunch ab workout for bad backs.
Image Credit: Recie Munson (Instagram: @walkwithree) and Anthony Hopkins (Instagram: @mahopkins_photography)