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Posted by: ryangeorgefitness | April 2, 2009

Ask the trainer: Back pain with abdominal work

Question– Hi, I’m 18 years old and I’ve been doing exercise for 2 months. I don’t have any difficulty but whenever I do crunches I get pain in my back.  I  really want to make my abs. A couple of weeks ago i felt that my belly was coming out a little so I started jogging and rope jumping and i have reduced it. I wanna do crunches as well to make my abs but I get pain. I know how to do it correctly but inspite of that i feel pain please tell me what should i do? thanks

Answer- It is not uncommon to experience back pain when performing crunches. The cause of the pain is usually one or more of three different factors: improper form; tight hip flexors/ low back; and weak abdominal area.

The first thing to look at in this situation is your form. Often times people make the mistake of sitting up too far when performing crunches. Your abs will be fully contracted once your shoulders are about 2″-3″ off of the ground. Anything more is simply working the hip flexors which could be the cause of the pain. This is why full sit ups are usually not good, because they work mostly the hips. As a general rule, make sure you are curling upwards (bringing the sternum to the pelvis) and that your shoulders are only coming 2″ off the ground. See the picture for assistance. Try this first and see if it helps.

curl

If you are using proper form, then the problem may be that you have tight hip flexors or a tight lower back. What happens with tight hip flexors is that they will pull the pelvis into a position in which our back is arched, causing low back pain. There are two things to try in this case in order to help fix the problem. The first thing to do is stretch the hip flexors an low back. Here is a link to a great hip flexor stretch: https://ryangeorgefitness.com/2008/11/28/exercise-of-the-week/

And this picture is of a good lower back stretch.

back

The second thing to do would be to take the hip flexors out of the equation all together. Instead of doing crunches with your feet on the floor, lift your feet off of the ground. See the picture below.

crunch

If those don’t work, you may need to build up your abdominal strength. In this case I recommend a couple of exercises to develop abdominal strength. First, try abdominal bracing. Abdominal bracing is basically a technique of tightening up the abdominal muscles. What you want to do is lie on your back with your knees bent. From that position, all you want to do is tighten the muscle as if you were bracing for a punch. Touch your stomach with a couple of fingers and make sure to feel for the abs tightening up. Start off by bracing and holding for 5 seconds at a time. Work your way up to the point where you can hold it for 20 seconds at a time. Once you can do this try again to do the crunches and focus on tightening the abs.

I hope this helps and feel free to leave feedback.

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