Are Sit-ups and Supermans Causing your Back Pain?

One of the things we discuss in the Yoga for Low Back Pain therapy program is The Big Three. 

Dr. Stu McGill is a world renowned professor at The University of Waterloo and is a wizard when it comes to spinal mechanics.  He integrates the use of three specific core exercises that are particularly useful in the rehabilitation of back pain. 

Spinal stability can be improved during postures and movements by isolating the deep abdominal muscles, specifically transverse abdominus and multifidus. These form a myofascial corset around the waist and provide support during spine loading. 

The issue with traditional core exercises we employ such as Sit-ups and Supermans is that they produce very high compression levels in the spine that can cause tissue damage. 

If you experience back pain, consider swapping out your current ab routine with The Big Three:

1) Bird Dog –  This exercise is pictured above and trains transverse abdominus, spinal extensors and multifidus. Emphasis on neutral spinal alignment in this position is key. 

2) Modified Curl Up – Effectively trains rectus abdominus but minimizes lumbopelvic flexion compared to full sit ups to reduce the risk of disc herniation. 

3) Side Bridge/Plank – Activates quadratus lomborum, obliques and transverse abdominus while minimizing spine loading. 

Training for health is different than training for performance, and this is one of the driving factors behind behind the development of my clinical yoga program “Yoga for Low Back Pain”.  In the world of rehabilitation, less is often more.