Abdominal muscles are key to improving the way we move and reducing our risk of injuries
The abdominals are primary core muscles and are an important part of the body to keep strong if you wish to move efficiently, and stay confident in your ability to keep active and injury-free.
The abdominal muscles extend from the lower ribs (thorax) to the pelvis and support the trunk, support the abdominal cavity and its contents, and allow movement of the trunk. Together with the deep (intrinsic) back muscles, and the pelvic floor, they make up the core muscles that help keep the body stable and balanced. 
The abdominals play a key role in protecting and stabilising the structures in our back. Strong abdominal muscles are important in stabilising our core , allowing us to improve our function and reduce our risk of injury.
Strong abdominals can improve our posture, the way we move our limbs and perform even simple tasks; such as getting out of a chair, turning while lying in bed, getting up from sitting or lying on the floor and maintaining our balance while moving. 
Improving the strength and endurance capacity of our abdominals can help reduce the risk of lower back pain. This is because the abdominal muscles are an integral mechanism of lower back support.  
Strengthening abdominal muscles
There are exercises that can be performed safely to strengthen your abdominals if you have had back pain and instability in the past or are currently experiencing back pain. If you are consistent with these exercises that are suggested below, you will be less likely to aggravate old back problems. It is very important to keep your lower back from bending repeatedly while performing these exercises. Placing a small rolled up towel under your lumbar spine (lower back) will help, allowing you to strengthen your abdominals without aggravating your back.
Tips for strengthening the abdominals when you have back pain
1. Modified Sit-up
Briefly: Lie on your back, with one knee bent, and one knee straight. Place your hands under the small of your lower back. Contract your abdominal muscles to raise your head and shoulders off the floor along with your elbows.
- Lie on your back with one knee bent and one leg straight.
- Place both hands, palm down, under the small of your back.
- Contract your abdominal muscles to raise your head and shoulders off the floor along with your elbows.
- Control the movement as you lower back down onto the floor and relax.
If you do not have lower back pain, try the following exercises to help strengthen your abdominals:
2. Sit-ups with overhead arms
Briefly: Lie on your back and arms overhead. Lift your arms off the floor and bring them forward and down by your sides followed by your head and chest into a sit up.
- Lie on your back with your arms overhead, palms facing each other. Bring your legs together with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Lift your arms off the floor and bring them forward and down by your sides followed by your head and chest into a sit up.
- Lower your shoulders and head back down onto the floor, bringing your arms overhead.
- Repeat the movements in a smooth controlled manner.
Briefly: Lying on your front with forearms on the floor, lift your body off the floor. Keep a straight line from your toes or your knees to shoulders.
- Lie on your front with your toes (or knees) on the floor.
- Place your forearms on the floor in line with your body and push up, lifting your torso and legs to create a straight line between your shoulders and feet (or knees).
- Tighten your core muscles and keep your body straight.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds.
Try this exercise if you have back pain;
Place a small rolled up towel under the lower back (lumbar spine) while lying on the floor. If you can’t find a towel or similar, then place both hands flattened under your lower lack instead.
Curl up just lifting the head and chest slightly off the floor and no further.
When performed regularly, these exercises can help increase improve your abdominal and core strength!
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- Flynn, W., & Vickerton, P. (2022). Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis, Abdominal Wall. Retrieved 20 February 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551649/
- Selkow, N., Eck, M., & Rivas, S. (2017). Transversus abdominis activation and timing improves following core stability training: a randomized trial. Retrieved 20 February 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5717480/
- Ha, S., & Shin, D. (2020). The effects of curl-up exercise in terms of posture and muscle contraction direction on muscle activity and thickness of trunk muscles. Retrieved 20 February 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32144977/
- Oh, Y., Park, S., & Lee, M. (2020). Comparison of Effects of Abdominal Draw-In Lumbar Stabilization Exercises with and without Respiratory Resistance on Women with Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Retrieved 20 February 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7100066/
- McGill, S. (2010). Core Training: Evidence Translating to Better Performance and Injury Prevention. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 32(3), 33-46. doi: 10.1519/ssc.0b013e3181df4521 https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/fulltext/2010/06000/core_training__evidence_translating_to_better.4.aspx