How to Do a Crunch Without Hurting the Neck or Lower Back


If you find that your neck or lower back ache after doing abdominal crunches, check your form. Neck pain may come from pulling your head forward when you raise your shoulders, while lower-back pain is often a result of using your back to lift yourself instead of your abs. If you don't have a neck or back injury, crunches shouldn't cause discomfort. Using props when you do crunches can also help alleviate unnecessary pain.

Things You'll Need

  • Yoga mat (optional)
  • Exercise ball (optional)
  • Warm up before doing crunches. Walk, ride an exercise bike or hop on the elliptical for 15 minutes at an easy pace.

  • Exercise on a padded surface. If you're not on a carpeted floor, use a yoga mat. If you find that lower-back pain in particular is your problem, do crunches on a large, inflatable exercise ball.

  • Lie down with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Rest your fingertips on the back of your head, not your neck, without interlacing them. As an alternative, cross your arms over your chest.

  • Push your lower back against the floor and contract your abdominal muscles to roll your shoulders up and off the mat approximately 4 inches. Keep your elbows even with your ears and your lower back on the floor. Exhale as you lift.

  • Hold the contraction for one second at the top of the crunch, then inhale as you slowly lower back down. Keep the movement controlled. Relying on momentum for crunches not only cheats your abs, it can hurt your back.

  • Stop and rest after one set of 12 crunches. Give yourself at least 30 seconds before doing another set.

Tips & Warnings

  • See your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

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