A flat stomach has many benefits, including reducing your risk of death from heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Unfortunately, many exercises designed to reduce the fat and tone the abs are stressful on the back. One problem is that many women focus on losing the belly bulge without any attention to its opposing muscle group, the back. Muscles work as a team. But having one group, such as the abs, stronger than the other, such as the back, can lead to further back troubles. To have a flat stomach with a bad back requires losing the fat and strengthening both muscle groups. But before you start, get the OK from your doctor.
Do 20 to 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity to burn belly fat. Choose activities that don't put additional stress on the back. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike.
Do one to two sets of 10 abdominal contractions to tone abs without straining the back. Lie face up on a mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Put your hands on your stomach just below your ribs. Squeeze your abdominal muscles as if you're trying pull your belly button down toward the spine. Hold for five seconds and release.
Do one to two sets of 10 opposite arm leg raises to strengthen the back. Lie face down with your arms extended over your head. Keep your right arm and left leg straight as you slowly lift them off the floor. Focus on reaching your arm in front and leg in back more than how high you can lift them. Hold for two seconds and then release and repeat on the other side.
Perform bird-dog to work the abs and back simultaneously. Bird-dog is similar to opposite arm leg raises except that you start on all fours -- known as cat pose -- with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Squeeze your abs and keep your back straight as you lift your arm and opposite leg until they are parallel to the floor. Avoid shifting your weight over your knee. Instead keep your weight evenly distributed between your hand and knee, squeezing the abs for stability. Lower and repeat on the other side.
Stretch by doing cat pose. Start in the cat position, as in step 4, with shoulders over wrists, hips over knees and your eyes facing the floor. Take a deep breath, then as you exhale, round your spine, pushing it toward the ceiling. Push the floor with your hands to get a bigger stretch. If you don't have neck problems, let your head hang toward the floor. Otherwise keep it in neutral. Inhale as you flatten your back to the start position. Repeat three to six times.
- Combine your exercise with a healthy diet to speed up fat loss.
- Stop if you feel any back strain or pain.
Leslie Truex has been telecommuting and freelancing since 1994. She wrote the "The Work-At-Home Success Bible" and is a career/business and writing instructor at Piedmont Virginia Community College. Truex has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Willamette University and a Master of Social Work from California State University-Sacramento. She has been an Aerobics and Fitness Association of America certified fitness instructor since 2001.