Getting ripped abs isn’t as easy as you may think and doing exercises incorrectly can actually lead to back pain. You can also experience discomfort in your back if you do the same type of exercise – such as sit-ups – too often.

In fact, a lot of back injuries caused by working out happen over time due to the pressure you put on your spine and lower back. While the exercises will help tone your abs, you could be paying a high price.

Luckily, there are ways you can tone your abs without over-taxing your back. Here are some great workouts you should try:

Cross-knee curl up

Rather than bending your knees, lie on your back and lift your legs up so the bottoms of your feet are facing the ceiling. Ideally, your legs and body should form a right-angle.

Put your hands behind your head with your elbows sticking out, as you would when doing sit-ups. Then gently twist your torso to bring your elbow in line with the opposite knee – they don’t need to touch – before returning to your starting position and doing the same with the other elbow.

This is slightly gentler on your back than sit-ups and can provide a good alternative to mix up your routine.

Leg raise

If you want to test yourself a bit more, you can try a leg raise but add another element by hanging from a chin bar. This will put a lot less stress on your back and will really work your core.

Simply hang from the chin bar with your inner arms facing forward. Then you just need to lift your legs. You can do this either by bending them at the knees and bringing them up toward your chest or lifting them straight to create a right-angle.

Give yourself breaks in between reps as you don’t want to put too much stress on your arms. Not taking breaks could lead you to fall.

Incline crunches

If you like the effect you get from sit-ups, you might want to try incline crunches as an alternative. These are just as effective for your abs but really reduce the possibility of back pain.

Set a chair up so the back is at a slight incline and lie down on it with your legs raised slightly – bend them at the knees so your thighs are at a right-angle to your body – and feet flat against a wall. Cross your arms on your chest and slowly raise your torso up toward your legs.

Exercise ball sit-up

You can also use exercise balls in a similar way, as they cushion your back and move with you, which drastically reduces strain on your spine and lower back. The ball supports the natural curve of your back in a way that a flat surface can’t while still helping you work your abs.

Lie across the top of your exercise ball with your knees bent and feet placed firmly on the ground. Then just do slow sit ups with the focus on your core, making sure you don’t move away from the ball too much or you could fall.