Exercising Stomach with Back Pain

Q.When I do any kind of sit-ups or crunches, I get extremely painful lower back pain. I have a bad lower back as it is, but I desperately need to strengthen my stomach muscles. What exercises can I do at home? I cannot afford to buy anything from a store.

A.You can strengthen abdominal muscles without purchasing anything. Simply lie on your back and with your knees bent, try exhaling and pulling your abs in toward the floor. Relax, inhale and let your abdominal muscles move outward.

A. Next, lift your head and repeat the inhalation and contraction moves. Relax again. Next, lift your head and arms off the floor as you repeat this move. A Pilates-type move would have you rapidly lift and lower straight arms as you raise your head and draw in your abs. It’s part of the “100″ series, named for the number of times you aim to pump your arms.

I know you said that you have a painful lower back, but that may be because you are exercising wrong. I want to offer you this careful instruction for a safe abdominal curl.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Tuck your hips into a slight pelvic tilt so that your lower back is close to the floor, then raise your legs and cross one ankle over the other. Support the back of your head lightly with your fingertips. Your elbows should be extended to the sides, close to your head. Keep your neck in good alignment with your spine; don’t tuck your chin forward toward your chest.

With a slow, controlled movement, lift your torso straight up until your shoulder blades clear the floor. Exhale with each lift; for an added challenge, pause slightly at the height of the contraction. Think of pulling your navel to the floor with each lift. Begin with 8, but work up to two sets of 12 repetitions. If you perform them correctly, there is no need to do an astronomical number of curls.

And again, if you have any discomfort in your back, simply lie back and do the abdominal strengtheners mentioned at the beginning.

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