I have back problems and need to work on my posture, one element is the lower ab to 'pull' my lower back into a more upright position (I tend to fall into a hollow back).

When I ask about activation, I mean this: get the relevant muscles to stay tense and active for a long time after the workout so that my posture stays OK with less conscious effort. What is a training modality or exercise to achieve this effect?

I'm mostly looking at planks and kneeling ab-wheel rollouts as exercises that have, I think, a more max-strength focus for me but I also occasionally do exercises with a stronger strength-endurance focus.

Should I prioritize one over the other to achieve muscle activation?

  • 1
    Any exercises when you have a back problem should be ok'd by your physical therapist or doctor. The ab roller may cause problems unless you already have good control. Emphasis on the transverse abdominis, by pulling your bellybutton towards your spine, when doing any exercise helps. The exercises in this q/a should help you get good postural muscle control, but best to clear them with your healthcare practitioner first. Nov 15, 2014 at 3:26
  • maybe related, my question about correct ab wheel form: fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/19557/…
    – mart
    Nov 15, 2014 at 11:18
  • 4
    The concept of upper and lower abdominals is an erroneous fallacy. You have abdominals, period. It is one set of contiguous muscle and it contracts as one unit.
    – JohnP
    Nov 16, 2014 at 23:38
  • I suggest a trip to a PT. You probably have activation and imbalance issues, and how to address them depends on your specific condition. If you aren't going to do that, I'd look at stretching exercises as well; strengthening may not be enough. The "hollow back" thing is known as hyperlordosis; if you search for that you will find more info. Nov 17, 2014 at 4:03

2 Answers 2


Okay - you're asking a challenging question, without diagnosis etc. it's hard to answer, regardless I'll give it a shot:

Let's get you a solid core first: hollow body hold, planks (back, front and side), L-Raise progression (aiming for straddle raises for hip and lumbar stability)

Let's open up your hips & associated connectives: Seated Cross Legged Piriformis Stretch, Butterfly Stretch, Front Lunge, Couch Stretch, Standing Pike.

Let's make your brain & neural pathways aware that your hips can be rotated: Cat pose, Camel pose, Half king pigeon (this was all Yoga btw)

So now you physically can have better posture you have to do it & then ultimately you want your body to do it for you. This should get your primed.

By the way, as much as I hate this website... if you care about activation then check out this article.


I would definitely start doing a lot of leg and lower body engaged abdominal workouts. These workouts will obviously target your lower abs. The key of trying to support your back at the same time with long lasting contraction would be more associated with the sets and reps you're choosing to execute. In my experience of training my lower abdomen, I've found the most success in weighted and un-weighted leg raises. These are a great exercise that target the lower abs in all areas with some variations. I've included some links to some great leg-based ab workouts below.

http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/decline-reverse-crunch http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/flat-bench-lying-leg-raise http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/hanging-leg-raise

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