Abdominal Exercises

What do I need to know about abdominal exercises?

Abdominal exercises help heal and strengthen the muscles of your abdomen to prevent reinjury. These are beginning exercises. Ask your caregiver if you need to see a physical therapist for more advanced exercises.

  • Do the exercises on a mat or firm surface (not on a bed) to support your spine and avoid low back pain.

  • Do the exercises in the same order every time to train your muscles to work together. Your caregiver will show you how to perform these exercises. Do them every day, or as directed by your caregiver.

  • Move slowly and smoothly. Avoid fast or jerky motions.

  • Stop if you feel pain. It is normal to feel some discomfort at first. Regular exercise will help decrease your discomfort over time.

How do I perform abdominal exercises safely?

Hold each exercise for 5 seconds. When you can do the exercise without pain for 5 seconds, increase your hold to 10 to 15 seconds. When you can do the exercise without pain for 10 to 15 seconds, add the next exercise. Increase the time you hold each exercise, or repeat the exercises as directed. As you do each exercise, breathe normally. Do not hold your breath.

  • Abdominal bracing:

    • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your arms in a relaxed position beside your body. Pull your belly button in toward your spine. Do not flatten or arch your back. Tighten the abdominal muscles below your belly button. Hold for 5 seconds. Begin all of your exercises with abdominal bracing. You can also practice abdominal bracing throughout the day while you are sitting or standing.


  • Curl up:

    • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands, palms down, underneath the curve in your lower back. Begin with abdominal bracing. Next, with your elbows on the floor, lift your shoulders and chest 2 to 3 inches. Keep your head in line with your shoulders. Hold this position for 5 seconds. When you can do this exercise without pain for 10 to 15 seconds, you may add a rotation. While your shoulders and chest are lifted off the ground, turn slightly to the left and hold. Repeat on the other side.


  • Dead bug:

    • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your arms in a relaxed position beside your body. Begin with abdominal bracing. Next, raise one leg, keeping your knee bent. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat with the other leg. When you can do this exercise without pain for 10 to 15 seconds, you may raise one straight leg and hold. Repeat with the other leg.


  • Quadruped:

    • Place your hands and knees on the floor. Keep your wrists directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Pull your belly button in toward your spine. Do not flatten or arch your back. Tighten your abdominal muscles below your belly button. Hold for 5 seconds. When you can do this exercise without pain for 10 to 15 seconds, you may extend one arm and hold. Repeat on the other side.


  • Side Bridge:

    • Standing side bridge: Stand next to a wall and extend one arm toward the wall. Place your palm flat on the wall with your fingers pointing upward. Begin with abdominal bracing. Next, without moving your feet, slowly bend your arm to 90 degrees. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat on the other side. When you can do this exercise without pain for 10 to 15 seconds, you may do bent leg side bridge on the floor.

    • Bent leg side bridge: Lie on one side with your legs, hips, and shoulders in a straight line. Prop yourself up onto your forearm so your elbow is directly below your shoulder. Bend your knees back to 90 degrees. Begin with abdominal bracing. Next, lift your hips and balance yourself on your forearm and knees. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat on the other side. When you can do this exercise without pain for 10 to 15 seconds, you may do the straight leg side bridge on the floor.

    • Straight leg side bridge: Lie on one side with your legs, hips, and shoulders in a straight line. Prop yourself up onto your forearm so your elbow is directly below your shoulder. Begin with abdominal bracing. Lift your hips off the floor and balance yourself on your forearm and the outside of your flexed foot. Do not let your ankle bend sideways. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat on the other side. When you can do this exercise without pain for 10 to 15 seconds, ask your caregiver for more advanced exercises.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • Your pain becomes worse.

  • You have new pain.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, care, or exercise program.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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