Sit-ups and crunches are a great way to score a six-pack, but these old-school abdominal exercises can also make strained or injured back muscles really ache. So how can someone with a bad back-whether due to scoliosis, stenosis, SI dysfunction or some other general weakness-work their core? Zeel fitness experts from The Big Apple to Colorful Colorado weigh in.
plank on palms and toes
Halle Clarke (New York, NY)
Halle Clarke, Pilates instructor and owner of Mongoose Bodyworks in Manhattan's Soho neighborhood, explains that there are a variety of ways in which Pilates can strengthen the core while stabilizing the pelvis and low back. "Unfortunately, it's not so much one magical exercise," she says, "but a relearning of how to properly engage the abdominal muscles in a way that doesn't irritate your condition."
A good place to start? Belly breaths. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your pelvis relaxed. (Your back should not push into the floor or arch up toward the ceiling.) Breathe in, allowing your belly button to rise up. Exhale, slowly drawing your belly to your spine without moving your back or pelvis. Repeat 10 times.
Bill Ross (Littleton, CO)
"Your best exercise is going to be a plank on your knees," says Bill Ross, owner of Ross Fitness Elite and the trainer behind a certain former Miss Colorado's physique. Eventually, you can work up to a plank on your toes. Make sure your back is as flat as possible and your core is fully engaged. The goal: to hold the pose for 60 seconds.
Mimosa Gordon (New York, NY)
For a "tricky" back, forearm planks and side planks can build strength without compressing the offending muscles, Pilates guru Mimosa Gordon reveals. Walking lunges are another way to strengthen the core (and hips and rear) without aggravating the back.
But for a real core buster, try this. Start on your hands and knees. Extend your right arm and left leg simultaneously. Hold for a count of three, and return your limbs to their original position. Switch sides. While challenging, this simple exercise works wonders for your abs while also supporting the upper body.