Stretch Sit-Ups

Q: Whenever I do stretch sit-ups on a swiss ball, with my feet hinged, my low back tweaks the next day. I know why, it's because my hip -flexors are pulling on my lumbar spine. Is their a safe way to build up to doing them with my feet hinged? Should I keep doing them while slowly increasing my range of motion. The reason I want to do them is because they help my posture so much. I seem to be good at doing the ab-wheel, because I can keep my spine flexed, yet the stretch sit up is hard.

A: This is a classic example of the exercise being too difficult for your particular level of conditioning. You have to accommodate your current (abdominal) strength or your back will take the brunt of the load - 2 ways to do this: 1. reduce the lever arm so that instead having your fingers behind the ears, cross your arms over your chest or even straight out parallel to your body (if you are using a load on your chest, reduce it), and/or 2. move the ball closer to your head when you lay on it and over time, you can advance by positioning the body closer to your feet.

[This Q&A piece originally appeared in Testosterone Magazine on February 13, 2004 and can be accessed online at http://www.t-mag.com/nation_articles/300cat.jsp.]