Do Lower Ab Workouts Harm Your Back?

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Learn how to keep your back safe while doing lower ab workouts 

For some reason, I get asked more questions about the lower abs then any other part of the body. Why do you think that is? Well, if I were a betting man, I’d say it’s due to misinformation. People read too deeply into half-truths and nonsense. Well, I’m here to clear the inversion from the air for you. If you want to achieve good results AND keep your back safe, then listen closely to what I’m about to say.


The “abs” consist of the rectus abdominis, inner and outer obliques and transverse abdominis. The rectus abdominis is the long slab of muscle that runs from your lower chest to pelvic area. The inner and outer obliques are on your sides of your ribcage and the transverse abdominis is an internal muscle that resides behind the obliques. Together these muscles work in concert to move the trunk forward, rotate it and move it laterally.


One of the big misconceptions is that you can isolate areas of the abs. The truth is, regardless of the exercise, you always work all areas of the abs. It’s just that some areas get targeted with more emphasis, depending on what you are doing. Let’s take the standard ab crunch, for example. This is performed by doing what’s called trunk flexion. Any time you move your shoulders and chin inward and decrease the angle of your upper body, you are doing trunk flexion. This places the most amount of emphasis on your upper abs. However, you are still recruiting all other areas of your abs.

Lower Abs

Now let’s shift our attention to the lower abs. The way to get more emphasis on them is by bringing your legs or knees inward toward your body. You can clearly feel and see this with an exercise like lying or hanging leg raises. Again, you are still working your entire abdominal area, but the emphasis is on your lower abs. The good news is, you can now use this information to effectively get a solid workout. The bad news is, people set themselves up for lower back pain because they don’t pay attention to proper mechanics.

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Good Form

First and foremost, form always trumps quantity. When you go for the leg raises, knee raises, bicycle crunches and jackknifes, you have to make doubly sure that you’re using good form. One of the biggest mistakes I see is when people do not brace their lower spine. This is also one of the easiest mistakes to correct.
Whenever you do a lower ab exercise, keep your upper rectus abdominis tight and slightly curl your pelvis under. If you were doing a lying leg raise, contract your upper rectus abdominis and press your lower back into the floor. It will then be stable and there is no chance for it to round as you lift your legs. That right there is the secret sauce partner. The rounding you get when your legs are extended out from your body is what devastates your lower back and causes injury.


Follow the tuck rule all the time and you will never have to worry about back pain in regards to your ab training. With just this simple little adjustment, you can add years of quality training to your life and worry a lot less. And worrying is not good for your organs. Let it go!
Until next time, my name is K/Rail. I tell it like it is and say it like I see it.

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