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[The Gym Bag, Week 1] The Best Ab Exercises For People With Lower Back Pain, Low Cal Drinks

The Gym Bag Week 1

The Gym Bag is Lean It UP’s weekly reader Q&A. Every Friday we’ll pick a few of YOUR questions from TwitterFacebook, and around the site, and weigh-in with our (concise) PoV. Curious about ANYTHING at all (everything goes)? Tweet @LeanItUP with the #LeanItUP hashtag, ask us on Facebook, or send in your questions here.

Q: Out of curiosity… are there any ab exercises you can recommend for people who *do* have lower back problems?

10_Low_back_painA: If you didn’t already notice, lower back pain is extremely common: an estimated that 31 million Americans have lower back pain, and 80% will experience it at some point in their lives.1 It’s beyond excruciating for those that have it, and the majority of ab exercises only exacerbate pre-existing pain. First off, three BIG exercise patterns to avoid if you DO have lower back pain:

  • Core rotation and twisting — bicycle crunches, mason twists, cable woodchoppers, etc.
  • Lifting your legs from a supine position (supine = lying on your back) — leg lifts, reverse crunches, etc.
  • Traditional crunches and sit-ups

Lower back pain limits the spectrum of exercises available to directly target abs, but don’t throw a tantrum — there are a bunch of effective options for overall core development that ultimately feed into abdominal growth. When done correctly there shouldn’t be any pain, and they actually can help strengthen the region and prevent future problems.

Here are my recommendations (click for video demos):

  • Swiss Ball Crunches
  • BOSU Ball Crunches
  • Partial Sit Ups — Keep your middle/lower back on the floor at all times and raise your upper back slightly.
  • Bird Dogs
  • Knee Planks — ALWAYS maintain a strong, straight spine. Keep sets short if necessary.
  • Side Planks
  • Core Bridges
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    — Don’t hyperextend too far at the top; work within a comfortable RoM.
  • Swiss Ball Wall Crunches — Place 1 or both legs on the wall to engage your entire core.
  • Lying Supermans
  • Prone Flutter Kicks


Stretching is also KEY. Any sedentary, chair-chained lifestyle creates tight hamstrings and hip flexors — both foster immobility and lower back pain.

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A: My SAT answer would be shots, but that’s not a practical/healthy solution. For the best alcohol-to-calorie ratio, without tasting miserable, go with the following:

  • BloodymaryVodka soda with a twist of lime and fresh mint. Flavored seltzer can also layer on an additional dimension, sans calories or sugar. 97 calories, 0g sugar.
  • A glass of wine. 125 calories, 1.5g sugar.
  • Bloody Mary. 80 calories, 3g sugar.
  • Screwdriver (vodka & OJ) or Vodka Cranberry, both with REAL fruit juice. 145 calories, 20g sugar.
  • Rum & Diet Coke. I don’t condone drinking diet soda on a regular basis, but if you’re mixing it’s a better option than regular soda.  97 calories, 0g sugar.
  • Gin & Diet Tonic. 97 calories, 0g sugar.
  • A real mojito, like this, with rum, lime, mint, club soda, and a little added sugar. 110 calories, 4g sugar.

If you’re interested in the long-winded, in-depth answer, check out our article here: How To Drink Lean, And The Skinny On Which Summer Cocktails Will Destroy Your Belly (And Which Won’t)


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Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO) & Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto
  1. ACA Lower Back Pain Stats []