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Work those abs to cure back pain

Abdominal muscle exercises are very important as this region is where forces generated by the upper and lower body meet, says Heath Matthews.

health and fitness Updated: Nov 28, 2009 16:10 IST
Heath Matthews

I have weak abdominal muscles, and my doctor advised me the double leg straight lift. An article in Rush said that this wasn’t a very good exercise and there are more effective ways to strengthen abdominal muscles. Please recommend a few exercises.
PC Singhal

Abdominal muscle exercises are very important as this region is where forces generated by the upper and lower body meet. The abdominal region needs a lot of static strength so that there is a firm base for other muscles to move from and it needs a large amount of dynamic strength because the back is intricately involved in important body movements also. There are three very effective exercises for developing abdominal strength. I prefer not to do these daily and recommend a 48-hour rest period between sessions.

Prone bridge hold
This exercise can build static strength in your abdominal and torso region. Here’s how to do it:
Lie face down on a mat, body in straight line. Raise your body off floor, with only elbows and toes in contact with the ground. If that’s difficult, keep knees on ground and toes in the air.
Do not arch the back, keep it flat.
Hold contraction for 15 seconds; complete 3-4 sets. Every second day, try and hold a few seconds longer.

Ab crunches
Slow abdominal crunches are a great exercise as they isolate the abdominals and make them work stronger. But you must not be going fast enough to use momentum.
Lie on back, feet on a stability ball or a chair. Keep elbows out and hands at ears, don’t pull on back of head.
Breathe out as you curl up, breathe in as you curl down in slow, controlled movements.
Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions (progress reps as you get stronger).

Supine isometric ab holds
This exercise isolates tricky lower abdominals that are associated with postural pain. Weak lower abs can lead to an exaggerated anterior pelvic tilt, which puts pressure on the lower back and causes back pain.
Lie on back, feet up at 90 degrees
Press hands into quadriceps and press quadriceps against hands; hold for 15 seconds, rest for 45 seconds, complete 4 sets.
Lie on back, legs extended at
45 degrees, slightly bent at knees; press against quadriceps; hold for 15 seconds.
Increase duration of holds as strength increases.
Strong abs can keep lower back, hip and knee pain at bay. Do these exercises thrice a week.

This query was answered by Heath Matthews and Glyn Bradfield, Elite Athlete Performance.