What to Do if Sit Ups Hurt Your Back?

I receive many questions about abs home workout, and especially questions like What to do if sit ups hurt my back?

Last time I was talking about sit ups and related side effects made me realize that I never do sit ups any more.

I just don't do them.

Sit ups is one of the easiest and most common home workouts that you teach kids, but sometimes it can become very challenging.

Can Doing Sit Ups Hurt?

Oh yeah! It can, and it usually does.

There are in fact two main reasons why I don't do sit ups:

  1. It hurts my tail bone
  2. It hurts my lower back

I am sure that many people experience #1. It's an awkward position because our body weight presses on the tail bone, which may cause big pains especially if performed on a hard surface.

Ok I know, usually you put a soft pad underneath, but it still hurts to me.

I also experience lower back pains when I do sit ups, and so do many other people. I don't have the exact explanation for this, I just know it's very uncomfortable and so I avoid it.

What to Do Instead of Sit Ups?

If you can't do sit ups for one of the reasons above, don't worry.

There are several other options for abs workout. I am thinking of three big families:

  • Body crunches
  • Leg raises
  • Planks

Body Crunches

Crunches is my favorite abs workout actually. It's easy, comfortable, and it doesn't hurt my tail bone nor my lower back.

Body Crunches

All I do is lay flat on my back, raise my feet from the ground and cross my legs. Basically my upper legs form a 90 degree angle with my body.

At that point I do crunches and bring my face towards my knees.

Even better, I usually alternate and do cross body crunches to work my obliques too.

All you need is a good ab contraction. I find that sit ups require you to do a range of motion that is too wide and useless.


There is another crunch exercise that I love to do and doesn't hurt my back: exercise ball crunches.

I use a ball that allows me to keep my feet flat on the ground and form a 90 degree angle at my knees while I sit on the ball (that's the right size for me).

I find this abs workout very effective as I can keep the contraction for all the duration of the exercise.

Leg Raises

Another good exercise to do if you have problems with sit ups is leg raises.

It can be done on the ground or hanging from a pull ups bar, your choice.


Planks have the purpose to build endurance in your abs, and they are also great exercises for abs, back and stabilizer muscles.

The two main plank exercises are

  • Front planks
  • Side planks

and both consist of lifting your body from the ground leaning on your elbows and feet like in these two pictures:

Front Planks

Side Planks

Frank Zane Stomach VacuumStomach Vacuum

Stomach vacuum is a great ab exercise, but it doesn't build you a six pack. What it does is to work the inside layer of our abs and its main purpose is to give us a flat belly.

So at the end of the day, you don't have to do sit ups if it gives you problems, instead go for one of the several alternatives.

Of course if you want to add resistance try to do sets of 10, then 15, then 20 and so on, it's all good!


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