Ab Exercises To Avoid After A Back Injury

Avoiding back injury when working abs

Back injuries are no joke! They tend to take a while to heal and they can really set you back when it comes to your fitness training. Performing certain abdominal exercises after a back injury can inhibit healing and even worsen the situation. If you’ve suffered from a back injury, there are a few abdominal exercises you should definitely avoid. Don’t worry, you still have plenty of safe options when it comes to working those abs!

Straight Leg Raises

Leg raises are an effective way to strengthen the lower abs, but they come at a cost if you have any type of back issue already.

This exercise is usually done while lying on the floor, or on a bench, and they can place an enormous amount of stress on the lower back. It’s not easy lifting a set of legs off the floor and by doing so, the lumbar segments of the spine become compressed and shifted forward.

Try This Instead

Avoid the pain and go for a reverse crunch. This should be done with the knees bent which will take all of the pressure off of the lower back and allow you to focus on the intended targeted area (the lower abs).


Wait, burpees are an ab exercise? Burpees are pretty much a full body (compound) exercise and they work the abs greatly.

The problem with doing them with a back injury is  that when you place your hands down on the floor and kick your feet back to get into push-up position and your back strength isn’t all there, this can cause the hips to sag which puts the back in an arched position and places a lot of strain on the lower back.

Try This Instead

If you still want the calorie scorching and strengthening effects of the burpee without all the pressure, try doing mountain climbers. They are far less invasive on the lower back because you are only setting one leg back at a time, giving you a chance to transition your weight better and brace yourself.

Mountain climbers will still allow you to get your heart rate up and target the abs, arms, and legs as well.

Hanging Leg Raises

This is a difficult exercise on it’s own, but add a back injury to the mix and you may get more than you bargained for (in a bad way).

When performed properly, the hanging leg raise requires you do tilt the pelvis forward before the knees are lifted. This places a lot of stress on the lower back and to compensate for this, you may find yourself incorporating the hip flexors and thighs to do all of the work instead of being able to engage the abs with proper form which defeats the whole purpose of targeting the abs through a full range of motion.

Try This Instead

The hanging leg raises work all the ab muscles , including the obliques. You can get the same effect by doing a traditional forearm plank.

Planks engage every ab muscle along with strengthening the lower back, working the quads, muscles of the shins, and even the shoulders.

Incline Sit-ups

Incline sit-ups are extremely taxing on the lower back and if you already have issues, they’re definitely not the way to go.

Inline sit-ups forced a curved lower back into the bench and bring the hip-flexors into the mix. If these are done regularly, and the hip flexors become overly tight or strong, this can cause a shift in the hips and pull the spine forward, causing more back discomfort.

Try This Instead

If you want to work the entire frontal abdominal muscles and give your back a break. Try kneeling cable crunches.

This type of crunch will give you the ability to keep the abs under tension, and you will also be able to control the range of motion, and the resistance.


As well as being aesthitically pleasing, ab strengthening can prevent injury in other areas. Check out 4 reasons to train abs (that have nothing to do with aesthetics)!

Please Note: Before following exercise routines or changing your fitness regime, please consult a certified fitness professional. Always talk with a medical practitioner before following dietary advice or taking supplements.

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