abs low back pain

Training Abs with Low Back Pain: More Than Just a Six Pack

The Anti-Ab Movement

We have all heard, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” This statement is great if all we think about is the aesthetic appeal of a six pack.  Where this statement fails however is in the function of the abdominals as creators of torque, facilitators of power, and resistors of rotation throughout your trunk.

Most important, they stabilize the spine above the pelvis. If you deal with low back pain, they could be the answer to solving that pain. To create stability around the spine you must create musculature to resist poor posture, hyper-extension, over rotation, and lateral flexion.

Instead of just thinking about the six abs you see on the beach every summer, join the cool kids that live pain free and be a part of the Anti-Ab movement.

Back Pain Exercises you can do on your own, View Now.

Anti- Ab Tools

  1. Z-Press

The Z-Press looks very similar to a seated military press.  The difference being that there is no back support and all of the pressing strength comes from your midsection.  It is common to see the athlete over extend in their low back as the weight goes over head.  This fault is often the result of a weak trunk, poor flexibility, and most commonly a combination of both.  Adding the Z-Press to programming will create a common theme of people asking, “Why do I feel it in my abs?”  Although this looks like a shoulder movement, we are really developing the functionality of the press from the trunk through the shoulders to create power.


  1. Single Arm Ring Row

The Single arm ring row is a great expression of the anti-rotational forces of the trunk.  As the athlete descends, it is very easy to let the opposing shoulder fall away from the ring. This is a violation of the anti-rotational function of the trunk.  To properly perform this movement, keep the shoulders square to the rings and lower yourself slowly.  The further you descend the more strain you will feel on your trunk. This is the torque that will lead to increased numbers in larger, more powerful movements.


  1. Single Leg Deadlift

Similar to the Single Arm Ring Row, Single Leg Deadlifts are quite possibly the best exercise for strength, balance, stability, and neuromuscular development.  In order to properly do them, you need a considerable amount of balance, strength, and coordination.  When performing the movement, you will notice there is a tendency for the opposing hip to want to open up and rotate away from the weight.  The hip wants to rotate to counterbalance the weight in your opposite hand.  To properly perform the movement, maintain a square hip position and fight the flexibility of your hamstrings.  As you push back in your heel, maintain a strong posture with your chest up and remember that the depth of the deadlift is less important than keeping your hips square and your belly tight.


Unifying Theme

To finish, I want to introduce the idea of levers and their effect on the demands of the body.  In a Single Arm Ring Row, the ring starts in close to your body.  This is a short lever and is an easy position to maintain.  As the ring moves away from the body, the lever extends and maintaining a forward shoulder position becomes increasingly difficult.  This is a universal theme in sport and training.  Squatting, in order of difficulty, goes from the easiest and strongest Back Squat, to a less stable, more difficult Front Squat, and to a very difficult, unstable Overhead Squat.  As you progress in training, using short to long lever and anti-rotational, extension,  movements will help develop trunk strength, stability, and help you live pain free.

DownloadThe Butt Wink Files: A Joint-by-Joint Systems to a Better Squat

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