From professional athletes to people working to stay fit for their own health and wellness, just about everyone is looking to build a stronger core. Core strengthening can not only help you to get those washboard abs you’ve been dreaming of, but also offers a great deal of strength and support that can improve your performance and overall health.
But for those who suffer from lower back pain or spinal injury, some traditional exercises may be doing more harm than good. Traditional crunches, for example, can cause issues for your lower back, neck, and hip flexors.
If you’re one of the many people who suffers from back pain while doing traditional core exercises, don’t worry! You can still achieve that strong, sculpted stomach with these 11 workouts that will strengthen your core without the backache.
1. Seated leg lifts
In a seated position on the floor, extend your legs out in front of you with your toes pointed up, your spine straight, your core engaged, and your arms at your sides. Lean back at a slight angle and lift your right leg off the floor about 6-12 inches. Hold for 5 seconds before slowly lowering it back down. Repeat with the left leg.
2. Stability ball plank rotations
Using a stability ball, get into a plank position with your forearms resting on the ball. Use your forearms to rotate the ball in clockwise circles for 30 seconds. Repeat the same movement counterclockwise for another 30 seconds.
3. Dying bugs
Lie on your back in a “tabletop” position so that your knees and hips are bent to 90 degrees. Extend your arms straight up toward the ceiling. Lower your right arm and extend your left leg in opposition to one another. Return to your original position and repeat on the other side.
4. Side plank hold
Prop yourself up with one forearm and your legs extended out to the side. Lift your free arm toward the ceiling and lift your hips up off the ground, separating your feet a few inches apart on the floor for stability, if needed. Hold for 15-30 seconds on each side
5. Body saw
Place your feet on two slides and get into a plank position, supporting yourself on your forearms. Use your forearms to hold you in place as you slide your body back and forth about 12 inches.
6. Reverse crunch with a reach
Lay on your back and bring your knees in toward your chest. Straighten your legs to 90 degrees. Keep your spine pressed into the floor and and slowly lower your legs until they are about 6 inches off the floor.
7. Half-kneeling isometric hold with cable
Facing away from the cable station with a single-grip handle in at your chest, kneel on one knee. Grab the handle and press straight out in front of you. Hold your extended arms out for 5-10 seconds and slowly return to starting position. Repeat 8 times each side.
8. McGill curl-ups
Lie on your back with knee bent and the other extended to 90 degrees. Place your hands under the arch of your back. Contract to lift your shoulders off the floor and return to starting position. Repeat several times each side.
9. Pallof press with cable
Start with a single-grip handle and your right side facing the cable tower. Grab the handle with both hands and step away from the tower, about an arm’s length. With your hands in front of your chest and your feet shoulder width apart, press your arms forward to extend. Hold for a few seconds and repeat on the other side.
10. Bird dog
Begin on all fours with your knees and hands aligned below your hips and shoulders. Engage your core to keep your back flat. Lift your right arm and lift leg at the same time, parallel to the floor. Hold for a few seconds and repeat on the other side.
11. Kettlebell renegade row
Begin in a pushup position with a kettlebell supporting each hand. Alternate rowing one arm up at a time for 3 sets of 6-8 repetitions on each side.
In addition to protecting your spine, exercises like these may also give you a better workout. While sit-ups and crunches target just a few muscles, these 11 workouts engage the full range of your abdominal muscles and more for a highly effective, back-friendly workout. Whatever your fitness goals may be, you don’t have to sacrifice your spine to gain the core strength you want.