Yoga for Posture – 19 – Lumbar Crunches

Okay, last week we returned to exercising our shoulders with reverse flies.

Let’s return to strengthening our back muscles with lumbar crunches.

First, though, a couple of housecleaning bits. Up until now most everything I’ve included in these Posture Monday posts has been a low stress movement for building basic spine and core strength and stability, but there exist only so many basic exercises. Eventually, you nail the basics and want to dial up the intensity.

Okay, let’s do that.


But, what? But if you haven’t mastered the basics. If you can’t perform the introductory levels of the exercises:

  • STOP

Have I got your attention yet? Good.

As you strengthen your back and core, as your posture improves, you absolutely want to go harder, go deeper, get stronger, but if you try these more advanced exercises before your body is ready for them, you WILL do yourself and injury.

My purpose in giving you these exercises is to help you, but I can’t be there in the room with you telling you, “Stop.” You have to be able to do that for yourself. So…

Before you attempt the lumbar crunch, make sure you’ve done about 4 million baby cobras, and an equal number of bridges. You should be able to hold plank for at least 30 seconds, preferably a minute.

Crawl before you walk, walk before you run. Because of the damage I did to my low back, I removed ALL lumbar flexion from my life for two years. During this time I re-curved my lumbar spine, relearned how to use it, and built the strength to be able to do more.

DON’T get ahead of yourself.

Now. Lumbar crunches…God I hate that term. The very word “crunch” evokes images of severe compression and damage. And the last thing I want (in case you hadn’t figured it out yet) is for you to do damage. It takes its name from abdominal crunches, which are a complete garbage exercise and you should never do them. Really, it needs a better name.

Anyway. AFTER you’ve mastered the basics, strengthening your back muscles to be able to do this (have I got that point across?):

  • Lie on your stomach, forehead to the floor
  • Bend your elbows and put your fingertips lightly to the back of your head
  • Engage your thighs
  • Engage your glutes
  • Lift your shoulders straight up
  • Lower your shoulders straight back down
  • Repeat for 20 – 30 seconds

When performing this exercise it is important to lift your chest/shoulders straight up. The idea is to strengthen the lumbar muscles, not to crunch your lumbar discs. So, keys to the exercise:

  • Always, always always lift straight up and down
    • e. don’t curl your lumbar spine
  • keep your legs and glutes (butt cheeks) tight
  • keep your fingers resting lightly against the back of your head
    • e., don’t pull on your neck

When you’ve trained the basics. When you’ve got good motion and strength in your low back. That is, when you’re ready to increase the workload and reps, the lumbar crunch will help give even more strength to your low back muscles.