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Sit-ups Hurt My Back

A few years ago I gave up doing sit ups because they always seemed to hurt my back. Since then, I’ve been using leg raises as my ab exercise and everything’s been fine.
Just started Thai Boxing and we do a lot of sit ups in class, but my back has started hurting again. Has anyone got any advice on what I can do to help stop it?

I’d first of all look at the tightness of your hip flexors but if leg raises don’t leave the same pain that would praps suggest its not them. One thing I can think of is the possibility that you are trying to perform them too quickly and hyperextending your lower back when your shoulders are on the floor, to almost slingshot yourself upwards if that makes sense? Try slowing down your reps and making sure you are starting each rep with a neutral spine. I have seen people use an ‘ab mat’ before but have personally never used one cant offer an opinion on them.

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Sounds like it may be a tight psoas major. So as suggested, hip flexor stretches should help. I’m thinking they don’t hurt when doing leg raises because your using momentum to perform the exercise?

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Thanks for the advice, I’ll google some stretches and give them a go. I like stretches, they’re free!
Thinking about it, my back sometimes hurts when doing leg raises but only when I’m doing them - not after. The sit-ups cause my back to hurt after training, not during?

What type of leg raises are you doing? Hanging leg raises or ones when you’re lying on the floor ? I’d agree with @bpgains in the way that there is no harm stretching out your hip flexors.

I do leg raises lying on a bench with my legs off the edge of the bench - quite strick.
I’ve started doing some stretching, I don’t know if it’s in my head but it feels better already. I’ll keep at it. Thanks.

@Dave_966 Above are all probably correct about hip flexors. Check tightness and do some reading into Anterior Pelvic Tilt. Are your abs and glutes weak? Are your lower back and hip flexors feeling tight? Learn to control your hips and this problem with sit ups may no longer be a problem. Check head position during sit ups too, may be creeping forward.

Also is there anyway you can tell your instructor of your back pain and request a different exercise during class?

The abdominal muscles do not cross the hip joint, so in any movement involving hip flexion (including sit-ups, leg raises, etc), the abdominals serve as a secondary, stabilizing muscle, not a primary mover.

Re doing an exercise that causes you back pain: Don’t. If your instructor is insistent you do them, find a different instructor.

A similar (but less back-unfriendly, and more efficient) variation you might be able to do without pain: Lie on the floor as per usual, but instead of anchoring your feet, flex at the hip so that your thighs are pulled up, and your calves are resting against the backs of your thighs. (Not rigidly; your legs should feel relaxed.) In this position, do crunches wherein you try to touch the lower edge of your ribcage to your hip bones. (You can’t do it; it’s just a movement cue to help with form.) The ROM is very short, but it’s all rectus abdominus. Because you’re not flexing at the hip, your lower back should be spared the unnecessary strain that’s causing your pain.


Thanks, I’ll try the exercise you suggest.
My instructor is a good bloke, he wouldn’t want me to do anything that’s doing me harm. The problem has been me doing too much - my 11 year old trains in the same class as me and I try to set a good example by doing everything the class does. At 47, I should know better! Thanks again.

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Thinking about it, I work at a computer and therefore spend a lot of time sitting down. Could be something to do with the tightness. More stretching needed I think. Thanks for your advice.