Situps are a traditional exercise done to work the abdominal muscles. Muscles targeted during the situp include the rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis and the obliques. If you are experiencing lower back pain during situps, you are most likely not practicing good form. The best types of situps work the abdominals without causing back discomfort.
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Full Situps Are Best
A full situp is more effective than partial situps and situps using a stability ball, according to a 2003 study conducted by the Medical College of Georgia. A full situp from the floor without using a ball worked the abdomen, back, shoulders, hips and legs. The least effective forms of situps were situps on a ball with an assistant and partial situps using a ball.
A Little Help From a Ball
The stability ball is a good tool to use during situps when you wish to strengthen the core without producing lower back pain, according to the American Council on Exercise. Also, the stability ball allows you to work the muscles in the glutes and hips along with the abdominals. Keep your feet planted and roll back your spine until you are stabilized on top of the ball. Lift your shoulders away from the ball and contract the abs. Lower your body back down to complete the exercise.
Keep Your Feet Planted
Using a stabilizing item during situps helps you isolate the abdominal muscles and increase the effectiveness of the exercise. Place your feet loosely under the edge of a couch or another heavy piece of furniture before you complete the exercise. Do not have someone hold down your feet because this is more likely to target your hip muscles.
Slow and Steady
Situps done at a fast pace are typically not effective because the hips are most often used to complete the movement. The hips put strain on the back, and this may cause you to feel discomfort during or after exercise. Instead, focus on slow and controlled movements that bring the pelvis and rib cage together. Keep the neck and shoulders relaxed to avoid upper body strain.