If You Have A Bad Back, Try These Ab Workouts

A bad back is a constant reminder of the things you can't do. You can't pick things up off the floor like you used to, you can't sleep in positions that were once your favorite ones, and you can't do all the exercises you see on YouTube. Back pain is fairly common, meaning you likely know someone who has experienced it or you have had it yourself — or both.

There are various reasons why back pain develops, and while some of them are less serious conditions like muscle pulls and sprains, others can be critical, according to Mayo Clinic. While back pain that resolves in a few weeks is likely nothing of note, if it continues beyond that, it's time to book an appointment with your doctor.

If you're someone who's plagued with a bad back and you've been cleared of any serious medical conditions, coping mechanisms are key. You've probably heard it said that building a strong core is a good way to avoid making back pain worse and potentially solve the issue altogether. Whether your reason is to build a defense against a bad back or to tone those ab muscles, here are five workouts that you can safely do with back issues.  


Planks are probably the first go-to exercise recommended for people with a bad back. They strengthen the core so that your back is better supported and also help with posture, according to Spine Universe. While there are several variations of a plank, you can start by doing the most basic one. To begin, lie face-down on an exercise mat or soft surface and lift yourself up slowly with your arms. Keep your feet on the ground and your arms stretched. Engage your core and stay in this position for as long as you can (preferably a minute). 

If this is too difficult at first, you can do a modified plank by following the instructions above but keeping your knees on the ground. You can then progress to a full plank over time.

The stomach vacuum exercise

As the name implies, with the stomach vacuum exercise, you will contract the muscles in your stomach by essentially "sucking in." This form of an ab workout, which is often used in physical therapy, is easy to perform and doesn't require a lot of floor space. You can do them sitting or kneeling on a mat, laying down, or even standing. For the kneeling version of the exercise, bring your knees to the mat or soft surface whilst maintaining a neutral posture. Take a deep breath in and as you let your breath out, mindfully bring your stomach in toward your spine. Stay in the position while breathing in and out for out about 20 seconds. 

Dead bugs

Described by fitness coach Evan Williams as the "low-risk, high reward" workout, dead bugs are an effective exercise that improves abdominal muscles, and coordination, and even eases lower back pain. Begin by laying down on your back on an exercise mat. Lift your knees up at an angle of 90 degrees, keeping your core tight. While keeping your spine to the floor, move your arms up and over your shoulders. Gently bring your right arm and left leg down to about an inch over the mat. Pause and repeat the same with the opposite arm and leg. You can do about 10 reps of dead bugs on each side. Dead bugs are also a great workout for improving your posture.

Bird dogs

Working both your core and back muscles simultaneously, bird dogs are a great addition for those with a bad back. Much like many of the other exercises listed here, all you'll need is a small space for your mat and yourself. Start by coming down on all fours on your mat. Engage your core and bring your right arm up and in front of you while lifting your left leg behind you until it's aligned with the ground. Remain in this position for a few seconds before coming back on all fours. Next, do the same with the opposite arm and leg. Repeat this several times on both sides.

Swiss ball crunches

Who said there's only one way to do crunches? Swiss balls make excellent tools for those with bad backs, per Spine Health. You may have also heard Swiss balls being referred to as exercise balls or stability balls. They are a safe surface on which those with back pains can perform crunches. Start by placing your ball on the floor and lying face up on it in such a way that your lower back is supported by the ball. Keep your knees at a 90-degree angle with your feet planted firmly on the ground. You can either cross your hands at your chest or place them behind your head. Keep a tight core as you raise your shoulders and perform a crunch. Three rounds of 10 reps each will provide a solid workout for your back and core.

Ab workouts don't have to be something you dread if you suffer from a bad back. In fact, all these are safe and weightless core workouts you can do from home