Good morning. Apologies for the delay in posting the Wednesday workout tip – better late than never!
Having sweet abs is a dream for most. However, the exercises required to get sweet abs can often wreak havoc on your lower back. Lower back pain is the most common complaint amongst North Americans. Our lower back problems however are not likely due to excessive crunching and more to do with excessive sitting, but reducing the likelihood of either starting or exacerbating the problem is a good idea.
So why do crunches increase the likelihood of lower back pain? It has been proposed that engaging and strengthening the abdominal muscles only causes the muscles in the lower back to be pulled forward and thus, strained. Therefore, it is important to strengthen abdominal muscles and lower back muscles in tandem.
How do you do this? There are a couple of options. Firstly, start incorporating planks into your weights routine. Click here for proper instruction. Planks engage the majority of your core muscles (all abdominal muscles, back, etc.) while also strengthening your arms and glutes. Planks are challenging so I encourage you to start out holding them for around 15-20 seconds and working up from there. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can increase your time.
My former athletic therapist (i.e. my therapist for two sessions as that was all I could afford) gave me another exercise which looks a little funny (because it looks like you’re doing nothing).
Lie on your back with knees at 90 degrees – a similar position you would have to perform crunches. You then squeeze your abdominal muscles and pull them upwards towards your rib cage. If you place your hands on your hips with your middle finger resting on your abs and your thumb on your back you should be able to feel the movement in your abs and back. Feeling movement in your back may take a while as you need to build those muscles, but eventually with time/practice/patience you should feel the movement in your back. If you have any questions about this particular movement I would be happy to answer them – giving written instructions is not always the easiest.
Make your lower back happy and try these exercises.