Crunches and Back Pain
I often hear this from clients: I have a lot of back pain. I’m nervous to exercise and if I do, I’m not making much progress. What should I do?
I have a ‘go to’ answer and even a ‘go to’ expert. Here we are in Miami this January. We were out for dinner with a big group. We were in a cool restaurant and this graffiti was pool side, so I wanted to capture it with my Canadian pal, Rick Kaselj.
If you’re experiencing back pain, as long as other issues have been ruled out, it’s likely that the core could use some strengthening. Take a look at what I feel to be the best and safest ab strengthening exercise from Exercises for Injury guru, Rick .
What About Crunches?
Are you doing crunches like this one pictured on the left? Does it bother your back? Did you know that this is one of the least effective ways to train your core? It puts lots of load on the spine and often leads to back soreness and even injury.
Rick Kaselj helps tweak the crunch or sit up to make it safe with these tips:
The goal is to work the abdominal area. In the sit up pictured above, the hip flexors are worked more than anything. As well, the spinal erectors are also engaged when you keep the back flat in the sit up.
To ease the engagement of the hip flexors, bent one leg. Place one hand underneath the low back to ensure that you maintain a proper pelvic tilt and curve of the spine. Maintain contact with the hand at all times. This ensures that you’ll keep a curve in the spine to ease the engagement of the spinal erectors. In other words, actively press the spine into the hand that’s on the floor. Think about pressing your belly button into the floor.
The other hand is placed at the base of her neck to support her head. This helps to keep the head in alignment with the spine. Try not to jam the chin into the chest. Keep the gaze upwards.
Start off by lifting just the head off the mat and then returning it to the floor under control. This works the rectus abdominal area, the ‘six pack’ that most want to work.
You can make it more difficult by lifting up a little bit higher so that the shoulder blades come off a the ground. You can increase intensity by holding for a second or two at the top of the movement and then return to the floor slowly.
Rick gives some crunch tips here:
Rick suggests ‘planking’ to strengthen the core and back.
If you can’t do the advanced moves in the video, just start with a static plank. From there, once you can do a static plank for about one minute, move to:
- get ups (high plank to low plank)
- mountain climbers
- T planks
Ensure that your hips do NOT rock and that they stay stable. Widen the stance of the feet if necessary.
Rick is the master of pain Well, of ‘fixing’ your pain that is.