Every time I’m at the gym I see people on the crunch machine or crunch bench with feet curled over the bars doing crunches and full sit ups. WHY? They are not doing their backs a bit of good and not working the right stomach muscles to strengthen their backs. The main crunch muscle is mainly for show on Venice Beach, not to protect your back for pickleball. The main crunch muscle makes you shorter from top to bottom. Oh great, just what I need, to be shorter. When you are hunched over the stress on your lower back becomes huge. The most important muscle is the Transversus Abdominis that wraps around your body like a big compression belt and tucks into the back muscles that stabilize your spine. Think flat stomach. The following exercises will help strengthen the core muscles and protect and support your lower back.
Picture #1 Plank position (can be executed on elbows). Hold stomach muscles in while balancing on one hand then the other.
Picture #2 Lying on your back with knees in tabletop position, touch one heel to the floor then the other while holding in stomach muscles.
Picture #3 Lying on your back with knees in tabletop position, hold abs in, cross one ankle over the other, take your legs straight out and back in; then change ankles.
Ed. Note: Fitness guru Barbara Wintroub is the author of Fighting Gravity.