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  • Writer's pictureLaura Flynn Endres

3 Exercises that Helped my Husband Avoid Back Surgery

Let me begin by saying I am not claiming that these exercises will FIX your back problems. (Consult your doctor and physical therapist.) There is a strict order to these things - doctor recommendation, physical therapy, THEN work with me.

But this is a success story I feel compelled to share!

Fifteen years ago, my husband's excruciating pain was diagnosed as a herniated disc.

The surgeon didn't think my husband's back was bad enough to risk surgery; we were surprised and grateful! And yet, he was in a lot of pain.

He received physical therapy exercises, which he did faithfully. After his back began to feel better, I assigned him these exercises to do to continue to build and maintain his core strength.

My husband has found that if he keeps his core strong doing these (and other) exercises, he doesn't have back pain! If he stops for a while (it's easy to forget to do these when you're feeling fine!), the pain returns.



Build a strong core and ease back pain with the following three exercises. These are the exact exercises I assigned to my husband!


Sets x Reps: 1-3 Sets of 20 Reps Total

Frequency: 3x per week to tolerance

This is one of my favorite all-time exercises for abs!

It's very accessible for most people, and it works your abs without requiring you to flex forward (like the good old fashioned crunches, which are contraindicated while you have back pain).

Proper Form Tips:

  • Keep your back pinned to the floor as you reach away with one leg and both arms. Reach the arms and leg as low as you can without arching your back away from the floor.

  • Holding and pulling a towel or band between your hands allows your arms to work together, which makes this exercise easier to control, while also engaging the upper body muscles more.

  • To make it easier, don't lower your arms and leg all the way to the floor - open just until you feel the work, and then return to the start position.

  • To make it harder, hold in the extended position for 3 or more counts.



Sets x Reps: 1-3 Sets of 20 Reps Total

Frequency: 3x per week to tolerance

These are niiiiiice, as they are part stretch, part work!

Proper Form Tips:

  • Be sure to try the Level I variation first, and then wait a day or two, to be sure you're ready for Level II.

  • Lower the bent legs to one side with control, stopping about halfway down. The goal is NOT to get your knees dropped all the way to the floor. The goal is instead to control the move and use your oblique ab muscles to do the work.

  • Exhale when you bring your knees back to the start position. Your legs are the "weights" in this exercise, and you need to focus to make your abs do the work.

  • Keep both shoulders touching the ground.

This one is a fan favorite - ENJOY!



Sets x Reps: 1-3 Sets of 10 Reps Total

Frequency: 3x per week to tolerance

This exercise will build strength in your back, glutes, shoulders, and abs, while also working on your balance!

Fun fact about this exercise... I once saw a video that challenged several super strong pro football players to do this move. They were so surprised to find it challenging! They struggled to find their balance doing it! (I wish I could find that link again!)

Proper Form Tips:

  • Aim to get your arm and opposite leg parallel to the floor. You're not trying to lift your leg as high as possible (that causes you to arch your back and we don't want that right now). Stop at parallel.

  • Your goal is to lift and reach long, away through arm and leg to be as long as possible.

  • Make a "table" with your body. Once you have your arm and opposite leg lifted, lift the entire "table" and you'll feel your abs engage!

  • If it hurts to be on your knees, place a cushion or a rolled-up mat under your knees.

  • To make it harder, hold in the "table" position for 3-10 seconds on each rep. Or, you can lift and pulse the arm and leg 3x during each rep.


Remember, back pain is serious.

Before trying these or any exercises, I urge you to consult your doctor and physical therapist to find out if they have recommendations for what exercises to do - and which exercises to avoid!

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