Sit Up Alternatives That Save Your Back

As we discussed in previous newsletters, there are a wide range of exercises aimed at strengthening the abdominal wall in an effort to have a better core.  Some do the job nicely, others, not so much.  In this newsletter, we will highlight one of the most common abdominal exercises performed with an alternative that does all the work without anywhere near as much stress.

The sit up is a common abdominal exercise performed in gyms and homes throughout the world.  The goal?  Six-pack abs and safety from future low back injuries.  The problem is that in an effort to engage the abdominal wall (rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, external abdominal obliques, internal abdominal obliques), the individual is actually repetitively forcing their lumbar spine (low back) into flexion.  The problem with repetitive flexion is that it can cause the jelly-like substance in the middle of your disc (the nucleus pulposus) to push through the outer fibers of the disc, causing a herniation or other flexion based injury.

The exercises listed here are alternatives that engage the muscles in the exact same way (contractions measure the exact same as a sit up) but with half the stress load to your low back.  If you're in the mood to strengthen your core and prevent a future injury, do yourself a favor and stick to exercises that are going to get you there!   

The pictures and explanations are courtesy of Dr. Byall's notes from Dr. Liebenson's seminar titled "Faulty Movement Patterns".   

The information and pictures are for patient educational purposes.  Copies of the entire exercise sheet are available at our office. For more information on these or other exercises, please contact our office by phone at (260) 755-5953 or e-mail at