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Crunches Hurt My Back. What Can I Do Instead?
I am a 22 year old college student. I work part time and go to school full time, so I am pretty busy, but I definately have an hour or more four times a week to spend in the gym. I have been having back problems that never seem to get any better, and never really seem to go away either. My doctor diagnosed it as a lower and middle back strain and sent me for some physical therapy. I know that stengthening my back help tremendously, but I am not really sure what exercises to do. Situps hurt and even crunches hurt after awhile. I was at 6% bodyfat, down from about 14-20% and I am just starting to workout again. I want to make sure I build a strong foundation with my abs and back. What kind kind of ab and back workout plan might you suggest?
Just like anything else you should use a method of progressive overload and progressive range of motion. While most people focus primarly on load, working on improving your range of motion may end up being more important. Crunches and sit-ups may be painful because of the stress provided by both powerful contraction of the hip flexors and the fact they will stretch the low back a lot. You could use other exercises that are more static in nature first such as holding a push-up position for up to one minute. A barbell rollout (like the ab roller but with a barbell) is another good exercise, but you need to make sure that you don't let your low back arch as you extend the weight out in front of you. There really is no such thing as the perfect abdominal exercise, just find out what does not cause pain and work with those exercises first.
You did not mention, however, why you are interested in more abdominal work. Are you under the impression this will help your back? Many PTs and surgeons still fail to realize that the muscles that have the most impact on preventing low back pain is the back muscularture. Exercises such as good mornings, deadlifts, back extensions, etc. are all perfect for such a problem. You may use progressive range of motion with all these movements and gage the level of pain with any of these exercises.