Tone your abs without back pain.
Crunches, sit-ups and plank holds can be a serious pain in the back, especially if you're recovering from a back injury. Traditional abdominal exercises often require you to round your back in unnatural positions in order to strengthen your core muscles, but there are alternative ab exercises that allow you to tone and strengthen without back pain. Always consult with a doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
Single Leg Stands
Stand with your feet feet together and your arms dropped to your sides. Pull your shoulders back and down as you contract your abdominal muscles to increase the stability of your back during the exercise. Bend your right knee as you lift your right leg off the floor until your foot is about 6 inches from the floor. The higher you lift your leg, the harder the exercise becomes. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then switch legs. Perform three 10-second sets for each leg. If you have trouble balancing during the exercise, stand next to a wall, table or sturdy chair so you have something to grab if you start to fall.
Lie on your back with your arms extended to your sides and palms flat on the ground. Bend your knees and place you feet flat on the ground so your heels are about 3 inches from your buttocks. Tighten your abdominal muscles and keep your head, shoulders and lower back on the floor during the entire exercise. While keeping your knees bent, raise your right foot off the ground until your right shin is parallel with the floor and your right thigh is vertical to the floor. Be sure your lower back does not raise off the ground and hold the position for 10 seconds. In a slow and controlled motion, lower your right foot back to the ground. Perform three sets of 10 seconds on each leg.
Dumbbell Side Bend
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Tighten your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine and keep your neck aligned with your spine at all times. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and allow your right arm to hang to your side. Place your left hand on your hip. Bend at the waist to your right as you move the dumbbell down the side of your thigh towards the outer side of your knee. Keep your back straight during the entire exercise. Hold the position for two seconds and then return to your starting position using a slow and controlled motion. Perform three sets of 12 on the right side and then switch to the left side.
Double-Leg Abdominal Press
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Keep your feet hip-width apart and your heels about six inches from your buttocks. Relax your back and keep your head, lower back and buttocks on the floor during the entire exercise. Raise your feet off the ground until your shins are parallel to the floor and your thighs are vertical to the floor. Place your hands over your knees. Create abdominal resistance by pushing your knees with your hands and pulling your knees against your hands. Continue to breathe normally and hold the resistance for 10 seconds. Return to your starting position using slow and controlled movements and then repeat two additional times.