Beware: those 6-pack abs may come at a cost.

Lower back pain could result from your machine choice

Are you willing to pay the price?

Hard to imagine, but working out could actually be exacerbating your low back pain. According to a recent study conducted by Cory Hofmann at the Cybex Research Institute, those abdominal crunch machines at the gym could be increasing back pain.

FACT: Research suggests that one of the most effective ways to reduce low back pain is strength training and exercise. However, if one is placing significant stress on their low back while training, they are limiting the effectiveness of this potential solution.

Most people don't exercise the right muscles

FACT: More than 1/4 of US adults between the ages of 25-44 suffer from lower back pain.*

Most of us know the key to a strong, healthy back is an equally strong, healthy set of abdominal muscles. So we head to the gym and work our abdominals and obliques - ignoring our back muscles - then wonder why our lumbar region is so tight and tender.

Now we know: in a recent study, researchers tested two popular abdominal resistance machines to compare muscle activation.

FACT: In a 2013 study, the Technogym Total Abdominal machine produced 79.6% greater hip flexor activation during the workout compared to the Eagle NX Abdominal, resulting in compression and shear in the lumbar spine.

Hip Flexor mean muscle activation

Do you golf, run, bike, or play tennis?

This is a wake-up call for anyone who loves to golf, run, bike, or play tennis—sports that already tax the lower back: not all abdominal machines are created equal and it pays to understand the differences.

FACT: Higher hip flexor activation may contribute to exacerbating low back pain.

So lose the muffin top and ditch that spare tire, with a smart combo of diet and exercise. But don't forget: in your quest for 6-pack abs, you could be creating an imbalance of strength—with strong abs and weak back muscles. Choose the right ab machine, and combine your workout with back exercises to develop a more stable, strong core.

*Source: CDC/NCHS, National Health Interview Survey, 2012


Cybex is a provider and manufacturer of premium commercial fitness equipment. Content featured in the Cybex Fitness Blog is meant to inspire healthy living and wellness and should not be taken as medical advice. As always, be sure to consult a physician if you are unsure of your individual exercise readiness or have a pre-existing medical condition. While these programs offer great benefits, there are many considerations that should be weighed before attempting any type of physical activity.

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