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Sit-ups have been one of the longtime staples in physical fitness routines. It has been a popular exercise used for improving abdominal strength and achieving a slimmer waistline. However, one common complaint about this exercise is lower back pain. So in this article, we’ll look at why does lower back hurt when you do sit-ups? Also, we’ll look at alternative exercises that are more effective at strengthening the core without causing back pain.
Do Sit-Ups Cause Back Pain?
Most commonly, lower back pain is the result of doing sit-ups with improper form. When doing this exercise, a lot of people clasp their hands together and place them behind their back in order to help raise the upper body. However, while it does help to prevent neck muscles fatigue, it also causes cervical flexors to shift pressure to lower body muscles. So you strengthen your abs but at the same time, you also weaken your neck muscles. This creates an imbalance, which can lead to lower back pain during a long sit-ups session.
Improper form during sit-ups can also include having your back twisted or raising unevenly. All this can also cause back pain as a result of spasms or muscle tension.
Another common mistake people make when performing this exercise is not tucking in their tailbone, which causes a curve in the spine. So check that your tailbone is tucked under, which will help to draw your belly button towards the spine. This will prevent the curve of the spine and help to alleviate any back pain.
To avoid lower back pain during sit-ups, trying crossing your hands in front of your chest instead, keep your butt glued to the floor and make sure that your tailbone is tucked under.
However, lower back pain during sit-ups can be caused not only by improper form but also by various other reasons. First of all, when you do the sit-up movement, you push your spine into the ground and this puts extra pressure on the posterior portion. And after an extended session, this can leave you with lower back pain.
Secondly, the problem could lie in the surrounding muscles. When there’s any tension in the muscles, your body usually looks to nearby muscle groups to compensate. So if there’s any tightness in your glutes or hips, during the exercise, you might also start feeling the strain in your lower back.
And lastly, the cause of your pain can also be that your core or back is weak. Even if you’re doing the sit-ups exercise with a perfect form, it might just be asking too much of your back. And this causes your back to strain. Try to go easy in the beginning and gradually increase the amount of reps.
Alternatives to Sit-Ups
Sit-ups have fallen out of favor in recent years and many fitness experts recommend skipping them. First of all, they are hard on your back and can cause spinal problems, especially if you do them with improper form. And secondly, there are other exercises that are better for strengthening your core and keeping it strong for the long run, especially if sit-ups are causing you back pain. Here some of the best alternatives to sit-ups:
- Plank is one of the best exercises for a strong and healthy core. But here, instead of just working your abs, you’re strengthening your rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis and the obliques. To make the plank even more fun and effective, you can different variations. For example, you can try a side plank, a side plank with a lifted leg, a reverse plank, or a front plank with one leg or arm lifted.
- Leg raises are another great exercise for getting a defined six-pack. Start by hanging from a bar, tuck in your core and raise your legs straight out in front of you. It should look like you’re making an L shape in the air. It’s an effective ab workout that is also less likely to hurt your back.
- Flutter kicks or scissor kicks also work the abdominal muscles, as well as the obliques along the sides of the torso. For best results, keep your feet only slightly raised off the floor. If you raise them too high, you won’t be engaging your abs. On top of that, keep your belly tucked and to protect your spine, place your hands under the glutes and keep them there for the duration of the exercise.
- Shoulder bridges work your abs and glutes, while also stabilizing your shoulders and improving your posture. To perform it, lie down on a mat facing up and. Bend your knees and place them hip-width apart. Lift up your spine and hips, leaving only your head, feet and arms left on the ground. To make the exercise a bit more challenging, lift one leg up and keep it straight so that your body stays in a diagonal line. Next, repeat the movement with the other leg.
There are plenty of other exercises that you can do that won’t strain your back. They can also be non-ab specific exercises but rather ones that engage a range of muscles. For example, consider adding to your workout routine some bodyweight squats, lunges, kettlebell swings, and others.
If you back pain after some time does get better and you would like to return to sit-ups again, consider using a stability ball for the exercise. It will provide support for the curvature of the spine while reducing the pressure on the vertebrae. Also, use a pad, a carpet or some other type of supportive surface that will provide some flexibility rather than rigidity for your spine. And when performing the exercise, make sure that you’re performing it correctly. When done correctly, they aren’t bad for you. However, if your back pain persists during sit-ups or you’d prefer safer and better alternatives, try the exercises we’ve mentioned above.