Feeling great: Why ab exercises can hurt your back

The toned body of a young man
The toned body of a young man

Summer holidays are coming up, and beach weather is just around the corner (well, we hope!), and one of the most common things we hear clients talking about on the sofa in our clinic is this:

The topic of getting ‘summer body ready’ and losing stomach fat so they can go to the beach.

Which is why I wanted to talk to you about two things today - Why doing ab exercises can be back for your back, and, the real way to get a ‘flat stomach’ safely, without hurting your back

So, why can ab exercises be bad for your back and cause back pain?

Well, even though a strong core is essential to a pain free back, and doing exercises to build a strong core are also essential, the most common ab exercises you see people going crazy at can actually cause strain on your lower back and don’t target the muscles you need to target, to keep your back protected.

Take sit-ups for example (also known as crunches), while you will definitely get a workout doing these, sit-ups also put a lot of strain on your lower back if the muscles in your lower abdominals are weak (which most of ours are thanks to sitting), and if they’re weak, that will equal putting stress on your back which equals back pain.

But there is an alternative – you can lay on an exercise ball and perform a sit-up instead, this way your back is protected and you’re getting a good stretch in your hip muscles which are kept tight when we sit for long periods of time.

But are all these ab exercises going to help you get a flat stomach? And if you have back pain, what can you do to help you get one?

Which brings me onto my next point – a flat stomach only appears when you have a low enough body fat percentage.

So if you’re someone who tortures yourself everyday doing all the ab exercises you can squeeze in, I’m giving you permission to stop, because it’s probably not doing what you think it’s doing.

Why? Because you can’t target or spot-reduce stomach fat – or any fat!

When you have a plan in place to lose fat, as long as it’s working and you stick to that plan, you will also lose fat on your abs!

So, what does it come down to? What you eat and how you manage stress!

Consume fewer calories than you are currently consuming.

Eat more vegetables - We’re talking leafy greens and similar vegetables. Sorry, pizza is not a vegetable.

The recommended daily intake is 5 plus vegetables a day. I know some people who consume zero. Having a plate full of vegetables will make it look like you’re eating a lot more, for fewer calories, and they’re a great source of fibre, keeping everything moving.

Make sure there’s a protein with every meal - The one constant in your food plan should be protein. This helps conserve the muscle you have and keeps you feeling full!

And eat healthy fats - If you are cutting back calories from junk food, and you’re loading up on vegetables, then you might struggle to eat enough calories every day – which can be detrimental to your health.

Enter fats! You’ve already got protein and vegetables in your meals; healthy fats will round out a good meal, and are not bad for you!

Avocados, olive oil, mixed nuts and real butter are great sources of healthy fats.

There you have it – the one change to focus on to target losing stomach fat safely, without putting your back out by doing hundreds of ab exercises (that you probably don’t enjoy anyway).

For more tips like this, click here to download our FREE report on ways to ease back pain without relying on painkillers: http://www.paulgoughphysio.com/back-pain