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Back Exercises

(continued)

Strengthening Exercises continued...

Note: crunches are optional if you do the plank exercise

Basic Crunches: upper abdominal exercise

Lie on back, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Do not anchor feet. (Anchoring the feet or keeping the legs straight along the floor can strain the lower back).
Head and back should be in neutral position. A rolled up towel may be placed under the natural curve of the lower back to provide extra support - the small of the back should be about an inch above the floor.
Place hands behind head with elbows pointing outward. Your hands are used to support your head (to avoid neck from tiring out before abs) but do not pull head forward.
Tighten abs.
Raise your head and shoulders off the floor - three to six inches is enough. Look at the ceiling to help prevent tilting your head. Keep elbows back.
Exhale when raising your head and shoulders off the floor and inhale when lowering.
Do ten - fifteen repetitions.

basic crunch pictures

 

When using your hands to help support your head, be very careful not to pull on your head or you could overstretch (strain) a neck muscle!

Don't start out doing too many crunches - the number of crunches performed should be increased slowly. Stop if you experience back or neck pain. Crunches also strengthen the neck but doing too many too soon can cause neck strain.

Move slowly when performing crunches - do not rely on momentum. Only the shoulders and head are lifted off floor. Lower and mid-back should remain on the floor in neutral position (slight curve in lower back). Pelvis should not move  do not arch your back.

Rotational Crunch: obliques exercise (sides of the abdomen)

Rotational crunch is a slight variation of the regular crunch shown above. The variation - the direction you raise your head and shoulders off floor is diagonal.
Lie on back, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Do not anchor feet.
Head and back should be in neutral position.
Place hands behind head with elbows pointing outward. Your hands are used to support your head but do not pull head forward.
Tighten abs.
Rotate your body so that the weight rests on left shoulder. Raise your head and shoulders off the floor and raise your right shoulder higher than the left. Move slowly.
Exhale when raising your head and shoulders off the floor and inhale when lowering.
Do ten - fifteen repetitions.

rotational crunch image crunch-crossover photo
Rotational Crunch
Variation of Rotational Crunch

Reverse Crunch: lower abdominal exercise
Lie flat on back, feet in the air. Bend knees 90 degrees. Place hands under buttocks for support and make sure your lower back remains flat on the floor. Tightening your lower abdomen, lift your buttocks a few inches off your hands. Hold for a moment and lower back down. Do 5 to 15 repetitions.

Straight Leg Lifts: lower abdominal exercise, also strengthens quads

Lie flat on back. Bend left knee at 90-degree angle, keeping foot flat on floor. Tighten abs. Keep the right leg straight and slowly lift foot about 10 inches off the floor. Hold for a count of 5. Do 5 to 15 repetitions. Switch sides and repeat straight leg raise picture

*Safety Tip for Leg lifts:
Lifting both legs at the same time causes excessive stress on your lower back so only lift one leg at a time; the opposite leg should be kept bent with foot on floor.

Alternating Kicks: strengthens lower abs

Lie flat on back, feet in the air. Bend knees to 90 degrees - thighs vertical and calves legs parallel to floor. Tighten abs.
Lower and straighten right leg toward the floor (as far as you can go without arching your back), while bringing the left knee toward your chest. Pause, Return to start and repeat with opposite side. Do 10 repetitions.

alternating kicks

 

Easier variation of Alternating Kicks: Keep both knees bent to 90 degrees at all times.

Start in the same position - Lie flat on back, feet in the air. Bend knees to 90 degrees - thighs vertical and calves legs parallel to floor. Tighten abs.
Without changing the bend in your knees, lower right foot toward floor, as far as you can go without your back arching, then slowly return to start. Alternate between leg and right side. Do 10 repetitions.

easy abs
Backward Leg Swing: Gluteal exercise (The muscles of the buttocks help support the spine)

 

Stand, holding onto the back of a chair for support. Tighten abs. Swing leg back at a diagonal until you feel your buttocks tighten. Tense muscles as much as you can and swing leg back a couple more inches. Return leg to floor. Do 10 - 15 repetitions. Switch sides and repeat.

back exercises continued...