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View Full Version : GHD situps - back pain


Allen Yeh
08-04-2008, 05:14 AM
Last week I was doing one of the CA WOD metcons and could not get comfortable with the GHD situps. After a few reps it seemed like no matter how I had the GHD adjusted my lower back started to hurt. I tried straightening my knees on the situp portion like it was suggested in the CFJ many moons ago but that didn't seem to alleviate anything. There was an old video of Nicole doing the GHD situp the right and wrong ways but either way it seemed to hurt.

Any ideas? I may just cross this off my list of exercises if I can't find a way to do this without it hurting my back.

Leo Soubbotine
08-04-2008, 07:22 AM
It pretty much always hurts the back.
Just depends how strong you are. Ease into them.
Here's what I found at our gym:

On average people in okay shape will feel some discomfort after 5-10 situps.
In a few weeks that usually is never an issue during the warmup and the pain is gone (we do 3x10 for warmup. Sometimes 1x10 if that's the comfort zone and the rest is on the abmat, or 3x10 to parallel).

The pain in low back starts being pushed away to 20 reps, then 30,50, 100 and that's pretty much it.

I used to have it, but now I just feel some very slight discomfort after about 75-100 of them. Otherways - no problems.

Try either going to parallel or add it in warmup - 3x5 or 3x8 - wherever your painfree amount lies.

Hope that makes sense.

Jacob Rowell
08-04-2008, 07:35 AM
I'll second that - going to parallel at first is a good way to ease into GHD sit-ups. Hell, it's mostly subjective and largely irrelevant, but I like the abmat sit-ups a lot more. We just got a case of 10 which means - a lot more abmat sit-ups. Plus, all the padding on our york ghd's fell apart after 3 months, and I'm too bitter about the experience to buy new pads.

Allen Yeh
08-04-2008, 08:14 AM
Thanks for the info. I was wondering if it was because I was doing something wrong. I had done them in the past and stopped due to the pain because I thought I was messing them up. After reviewing the vids and the CFJ I thought I knew what I was doing wrong and tried to put them back in.

I'll add them in my warmup and start off going to parallel and increase the ROM as I go along. I've used the ab-mat once and it was a lot different than a regular situp. Typically when it comes to situps I'll just do them with a towel rolled up to sub for the ab mat.

Thanks again.

Greg Everett
08-04-2008, 10:24 AM
I see this when people have tight hip flexors - they prevent the pelvis from rotating back far enough, which is why it feels fine if you limit yourself to horizontal or so. First, make sure the fulcrum is well under your hamstrings, and not under your glutes - it has to be free to rotate with the spine.

Try doing some lunge stretches before and after each set - if you get in and really stretch them out, you should feel a noticeable difference, although it will likely not disappear completely on the first day.

Consider the anatomy - you have 3 hip flexor muscle groups - rectus femoris (attaches femur to front of pelvis); iliacus (attaches femur to back inside of pelvis); and psoas major and minor (attaches femur to lumbar spine). So if all of those are tight, as you lean back, the pelvis remains stuck, and the lower back has to hyperextend to get the ROM. On top of that, the psoas will be tugging directly on the lumbar spine, increasing the hyperextension and creating that feeling of compression.

That's why the quad actication is important - to make sure you're getting rectus femoris engagment to help bring up the pelvis and not just letting the psoas pull on the spine.

So like I said, try really opening up the hip flexors and making sure the fulcrum is under the hamstrings, and like others have said, ease your way into it.

Patrick Donnelly
08-04-2008, 11:54 AM
What exactly does the AbMat do? I've never tried one, but from that point of view, it just looks like a pillow to soften the ground where your back lands.

Jason Tanner
08-04-2008, 02:24 PM
From what I thought, the abmat basically placed more stress on your abs and reduced the use of hip flexors in the movement whether than a normal sit-up. The abmat will also keep your lumbar spine in neutral position like you would be doing in GHD sit-ups, squats, etc.

Greg Everett
08-04-2008, 02:31 PM
With that thing under your lumbar spine, the pelvis rotates forward so the base of the spine is pointing up somewhat rather than being horizontal as it would be without the mat. So it basically keeps trunk flexion going to a greater degree of trunk elevation before a greater angle has to be achieved by rotating the pelvis (hip flexion) along with flexing the spine. So if you take the torso past where the pelvis must rotate, you're still doing hip flexor work.

Eva Claire Synkowski
08-04-2008, 04:31 PM
First, make sure the fulcrum is well under your hamstrings, and not under your glutes - it has to be free to rotate with the spine.

obviously, greg covered it - but i used to have low back pain before realizing this proper positioning. check that your sit bones are off the pad.

Jason Tanner
08-04-2008, 06:17 PM
Thanks for the clarification.

Allen Yeh
08-05-2008, 04:18 AM
Ok, I'm an idiot.

I did what Greg said and moved the pad directly under my hamstrings and did 3 sets of 10 with only some slight discomfort in the lower back on the last set. Now I just need to work these in more often. About the only thing I can say about having the pad there is I had visions of my head slamming into the ground.

Thanks for all the input.