Men's Health BY CRAIG BALLANTYNE FEB 27, 2007
Yes, it's true. These two standard ab exercises can actually be murder on your low back.
Why? Because they involve spinal flexion (rounding your lower back to allow you to bend forward at the waist). But according to research, that's the exact mechanism that causes a herniated disc in your lower back. After all, most people "throw their back out" bending over to pick something off the ground.
So it makes sense to limit the amount of traditional sit-ups and crunches in your program. Plus, you can't spot reduce the fat from one area, so you are better off spending that exercise time on a better total body exercise or intervals. If you want to flatten your abs, you need to lose body fat.
So to improve your abs, use the following techniques:
1) Take half the time you were spending on abs, and do intervals with that time instead.
2) Spend most of your ab training time doing total body ab stabilization/endurance exercises such Planks, Side Planks, Mountain Climbers, and Stability Ball Jackknives. This removes exercises that irritate your back and build abdominal endurance which is shown to be associated with less low back pain.
3) Keep your abs braced in all exercises so that you work your abs in every movement that you do. Even in bodyweight exercises
Train hard but safe,
Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS