T Nation

Low Back / Ab Strength Imbalance


Hi i'm 17 years old. 5' 11", 175lbs
I recently discovered that my lower back strength greatly over powers my ab strength. My lower back doesn't hurt, but most of the time when i'm standing I notice my body starting to shift the weight onto my lower back. And I have a little trouble with my posture. I hardly do anything for abs. Rarely, I throw in 3 sets of swiss-ball crunches after my workouts.

I was aware of the imbalance all along, but it smacked me in the head when I used the expensive MedX back extension machine in my gym. I did 300lbs for 6 reps. I could've done more, but wasn't in the mood to sweat. Then, I tried the MedX ab crunch machine and I could only do 60lbs! I tried 80lbs and that was my 1RM.
That sucks. I decided to take action.

Question: What exercises or routines would be best for my situation/imbalance?

I looked into the Ian King Awesome abs program. And some other ab routines (21st Century Core Training, Ab Training for Athletes and Babehounds 2K3 etc.). I dont want to pick one that'll be counter-productive for my goal.

Also, i'm considering dropping deadlifts from my routine for three months. It's really the only lower back exercise I do. I don't do back extensions or anything like that. I'll replace it with more squat variations.

Thanks for your help


Hi Serious_guy,

Well, I wouldn't get too concerned yet. It's really not the Rectus Abdominus (the muscle that is responsible for a "six pack") that you need to worry about in terms of strength, although I'm not saying the working that muscle wouldn't be beneficial. It's the Transverse abdominus that is the muscle that one should worry about in terms of strength.

This muscle is not superfically apparent, but is far more responsible for posture/spinal stabilization than the Rectus Abdominus.

Exercises that require you to stabilize your body in a straight line while working against resistance are best for strengthening this muscle. Some good exercise include:

Overhead squats
Dragon Flags
Front Levers
Ab Wheels
Farmers walks with the weight held on your shoulders

Good training,




I agree with Sentoguy - its the TVA you have to primarily worry about.

I also disagree with Sentoguy - start worrying now :wink:

OK, don't seriously worry, but the fact that you are so obviously under-recruiting your trunk flexors/stabalisers is an issue. That in itself combined with strong back extensors will likely lead to eventual anterior pelvic tilt and low back pain.

So do general ab work + look up/get some TVA exercises from a physio - things like vacum poses, concentrating on posteriorly rotating your pelvis and keeping your TVA isometrically contracted. Do this while doing single leg lifts on your back etc.