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Weightlifting & Exercise/Abdominal exercise with L5/S1 issue

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Question
Hi,
25 years ago I had a successful L5/S1 disk removal.  I say successful because I have experienced many years of active life since then.  This includes light weight lifting, tennis, etc.  Now 67, I also walk maybe 20-30 miles a week and still do some machines and dumbbells at the gym a couple of times a week.  

My question concerns abdominal exercises that will tighten and define my six pack (along with my losing weight) yet which won't damage my back.  I understand that some of these exercises such as sit-ups are bad.  Every exercise seems to involve both the abdominal muscles and the lower back though.  I was thinking about the one where you hang from a bar and just left your knees up to your chest.  Also there is a machine where you kneel and swing back and forth while holding onto handles.  However, this one does mean my back will experience hundreds of reps, so I'm questioning that.  So you see my questions by now.  Please comment on what I'm doing and offer any other exercise better targeting my abdominals without risking back issues.  Thanks.

Answer
Hi Art,

My my you are quite an active individual in regards to getting your exercise, that is wonderful. You also are doing the right thing combining weight training and cardiovascular exercise with your walking routine. I am so glad to hear your disc surgery was successful because there are many who get it and regret it as it is not always the ideal option. I too had L5 (along with S1 and L4) issues. Ok so safe ab exercises, stay away from classic sit-ups (where your feet are held down)as this does more hip flexors and little abdominal work, and are bad for your back. The machine you referred to that you kneel on and swing back and forth, if it is what I am thinking of at Planet Fitness, is a good choice. I have used this and found it really taxes my abdominal muscles, plus you can swing at an angle and target the oblique's as well. The hanging leg raises are ok too, but these target the lower abs a bit more so I would combine these with crunches which are the best all around ab exercise in my opinion. This is a sit-up with your feet free, curl up as far as possible, pause then lower back down. Art be sure not to pull on the back of your neck with these, but place finger tips on the sides of you head and use your abs only to curl upward. Also all exercise should be done slowly so as not to utilize momentum, but muscular contraction. I like leg raises (done laying on back, hands under buttocks, then slowly raise legs 12-18 inches with legs slightly bent to take stress off the lumbar region of the back (right where you had the L5/S1 discectomy.) If this causes any discomfort or pain in the lower back, stop immediately and stick with hanging leg raises. You can also do hanging leg raises where you lift the legs 90 degrees to the torso, outward as opposed to knees straight up. Lastly stay away from roman chair sit-ups which cause a shearing force on the disc's and are very bad.
Art I hope I have been helpful to you, try these suggestions and I think you will be pleased with them. If you have any further questions I have much experience with this topic so write me if I can be of any further assistance. Thank you for writing and best of luck with your fitness endeavor.

-Greg

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Greg Hoppe

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I can answer questions on proper exercise technique, starting as well as growing in attaining your fitness goals and questions regrading how the human body works from an exercise physiology standpoint. I can assist with any questions regarding anatomy & physiology, stretching and rehabilitation. I am also extremely well versed and experienced in martial arts, self-defense and massage therapy.

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I have a B.S in Physical Education and a Black Belt in an eclectic martial art. I am also a certified Fitness Therapist through ISSA and a massage therapist. I can assist with questions regarding hiring a health and wellness professional as well as growing and succeeding in the field for those already working in it.

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ISSA, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals

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B.S. in Physical education, Black Belt, ISSA certfified Fitness Therapist.

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