When performing crunching exercises, there are some good tips to follow regarding form to ensure you are doing them safely and correctly. I have seen to many people suffer from low back pain as a result of doing too many crunches. You don’t have to do 100 crunches everyday to get results. Perform crunches safely and effectively and get better results with half the volume.
With any abdominal exercise the goal is to fatigue the abdominal muscles quickly. So by keeping them contracted throughout the movement, you can create complete muscle exhaustion without having to do 100 repetitions. When performing a crunch, draw in your naval toward your spine for the entire movement. Envision your reaction to someone standing above you, ready to drop a medicine ball on your abs. Your reaction would be to tighten up. Keep the abs tight through the entire set and soon you will notice complete fatigue with less repetition.
Crunches– Perform crunches with the knees bent to take pressure off of the lower back. Raise your shoulders toward the ceiling, keeping your back as straight as you can. Move your shoulders only a few inches from the floor to create a full crunch. Rolling your shoulders toward your pelvis makes you more susceptible to lower back pain.
Exercise Ball Crunches– While lying on the ball with your lower back supported on top, slowly move your shoulders toward the ceiling a few inches, do not roll your shoulders forward. Do not let the ball move under you as this may only displace the ball, therefore limiting the effectiveness of the exercise.
Exercise to Avoid
Supine straight leg raise
This is an advanced exercise and is not for those who are new to fitness. The performance of the exercise involves lying flat in your back and raising your legs straight in the air, then slowly lowering them toward the floor to work the abdominal muscles targeting the lower abs. While it is a great exercise, most people go too far with the range of motion and this can lead to lower back pain. When you begin to lower your legs to the floor, your lower back should remain flat against the floor. The point at which your lower back begins to arch and your pelvis rotates anterior, is when your abs begin to give and the lower back is trying to compensate. This results in putting stress in the lumbar region of the back that can cause back pain.
I would recommend that when attempting this exercise, you should lower your legs to no more than a 45 degree angle from the floor. Begin by lowering them a few inches and then back to vertical, then slowly progress to moving them toward 45 degrees over time. If you begin to experience stress or pain in the lower back, stop immediately as this is not a good pain to have during an exercise. I would recommend not doing this exercise with by having a partner throw your legs to the floor as they stand above you. It is highly advanced and can cause more harm than good.
So next time you begin your ab sequence, remember these tips and you should decrease your lower back pain, be fatigued earlier, and the results will be a more effective abdominal workout in less time.