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I am doing crunches since 3 weeks. From last 1-2 days I am feeling pain in upper back/spine. The intensity of pain is not much, but i am feeling it all day.

I am doing 3 sets of crunches (20 MAX in a set).

Is it normal to have pain after crunches? (or may be I am doing it wrong way)

The pain has just started in last 1-2 days. Should i do abondon crunches until pain is gone (or should i carry on with it)?

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3 Answers 3

You're probably not maintaining a neutral spine as you attempt to perform your crunches. Be mindful of what you're doing with your head and upper back/cervical spine as you execute the movement. Filming yourself while you perform this exercise (from the side would probably be most beneficial) and looking at your spinal flexion will help you determine whether or not you're productively engaging your abdomen while maintaining good spinal alignment. If you're not sure what to look for, send your film clip to a fitness professional you trust.

Also, consider the fact that crunches are highly controversial. Some people with very strong abdomens don't even perform crunches or any other isolating abdominal work--performing heavy compound movements such as squats and deadlifts (with an emphasis on correct abdominal engagement and breathing technique) will probably get you a lot further than crunches ever will. I have a much stronger core from powerlifting training than when I was just lifting weights in a "bodybuilding split" approach. Look into basic strength programs such as Starting Strength or Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 (run either of these through Google and start exploring) for an approach to building overall strength that will INCLUDE your core.

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Pain can be an indication that something is wrong. It is not normal to have pain in your spine during or after crunches. Abdominal muscle soreness could be normal, but not back pain.

Upper back pain from doing crunches may be caused by jerking or pulling on the head and neck with your hands to lift the head. If you tend to pull on the head, try changing your hand/finger position to lightly touching the top or sides of the head. Avoid jerking.

There are other ways to strengthen your abdominals without aggravating your back. This q/a has some abdominal exercises that should be better on the spine than crunches. For example, the dying bug will target the abs, but protect the spine. Personally, I would discontinue crunches until the pain subsides so as not to aggravate the spine.

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The reason your spine hurts is because the hip flexors, typically used during sit up style exercises, are attached to your spine. Your core is hanging on for its dear life during extended sit up style exercise regimes in order to save your back.

Over 800 newtons of force are placed on the attachment points in the spine during sit ups. If you want to mitigate that, execute a Mcgill sit up-one leg extended, one leg bent.

Ensure that when executing a crunch, you only perform 30 degrees of flexion in the spine. Shoulder blades should leave the deck, but at no point should you be "sitting up".

I'm going to agree with others here in saying that there are many exercises that utilize the core anyway-if you're doing it right you don't really need to focus on the core.

I ensure that when prescribing, my clients do not have too much sit up style exercises. Planks are king, not sit ups. Planks don't involve spinal flexion.

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