Safe Spondylolisthesis Ab Exercises

spondylolisthesis ab exercise

Almost everyone who has suffered from spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis has been told that strengthening the core is a must.

The initial reaction for many is to run out and perform a variety of ab exercises designed to protect the back.

But what if I told you that some ab exercises can actually make your back pain worse?

Not all ab exercises were created with spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis patients in mind.  Some ab exercises can produce increased stress on your spine and lead to additional pain.

Abdominal exercises that might be perfectly safe for some could cause pain and discomfort for others.

One of my personal favorites and  simple ab exercise for spondylolisthesis is the prone hover.

To perform the prone hover, lie on your belly on the ground and prepare to prop the body up with the forearms and toes.

Lift your body off the ground so your hips and shoulders form a parallel line with the ground to encourage a straight back.  Keep your palms on the ground with your hands open as seen in this photo.

Prone Hover

It is natural to create assisted tension in the arms by clenching the fists-remain relaxed in the arms and hands and make your core muscles do the work.  Your focus should be keeping the legs and torso straight.


Do not let your hips dip or raise up above parallel.  It helps to do this by a mirror or have someone watch your back to make sure you remain straight.

If you experience discomfort in the low back, try slightly raising your hips.  Pain is sometimes caused by an excessive curve in the low back.  If pain continues, stop the exercise.  This exercise might be too advanced for your current state.  Your best bet would be to start with your arms on an elevated surfrace, such as a couch or bed.

1.) Start by trying 2 sets of 20 sec.
2.) Then progress to 3 sets of 20.
3.) Gradually work your way up to 3 sets of 45 seconds.

Increase the work by adding 5 seconds when you are able to perform the exercise with perfrect form.

This is a basic example of a nuetral spine exercise.

Nuetral spine ab exercises for spondylolisthesis are safe, effective, and put little to no stress on your current condition.

Not only do they strengthen the core, but they help activate and strengthen muscles in the lower abdomen and pelivic region that are vital to stabilizing the pelvis.

This combination can lead to stronger and more stable abs without all of the stress on your spine.

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Leave A Reply (12 comments so far)

  1. K Chin
    4 years ago

    very informative and helpful indeed, Gives confidence for me to continue with the suggested exercises.

    • Spondy
      4 years ago

      I am glad that information was helpful K Chin. Having confidence is a large piece of the puzzle. It is very easy to get down and depressed with all of the pain and discomfort that comes along with having a spondy. Keeping the mind in a positive state can go a long way in helping your recovery process. Best of luck!

  2. fred loewebaum
    3 years ago

    Justin ,
    With regard to he plank movement, I have been doing something very similar. I am in a prone position but my arms are fully extended..almost like I’m ready to start push up but I never actually go down. I saw this demonstration on a yoga website. I hold this position for 10 to 20 sec. Doesn’t cause any pain. I will probably try this type of maneuver for my side as well. What do you think?

    • SpondyInfo
      3 years ago

      Hi Fred. One thing to watch for when you mention your version of the plank is to make sure your low back/hips do not drop below your shoulders. This can place excessive force on your low back due to the reverse arch position that is created. Side planks are a fairly safe way to improve upon strength and stabilization. When done correctly they make for a nice addition to any program. Always pay attention to your body (how it feels and what it is telling you) and technique when experimenting with new exercises. Great to hear from you Fred!

  3. Tornike
    2 years ago

    Hi, this exercisebis good by what can i do if i want great abs ? I mean if i want to 6 or 8 pack abs and just want to training in fitness?

    • SpondyInfo
      2 years ago

      6 pack abs have more to do with diet than exercise. You have to eliminate body fat to visibly see the muscle definition. No matter how many ab exercises you do, if you have excessive body fat present, those abs will not be visible. My recommendation is to seek a personal trainer who is knowledgeable in this area and can help you reach your goals.

  4. Melissa
    2 years ago

    Love this. Are the pelvic muscles etc typically weakened with this condition?

    • SpondyInfo
      2 years ago

      Hi Melissa. That is a good question and the answer is complicated. I believe this condition forces many to become sedentary. They stop moving which is about the worst thing you can do over the long haul. When people become sedentary their muscles become lazy and inactive and even atrophied. So yes your pelvic muscles could become weakened. The other thing that can happen is compensations from the pain cause some muscles to over work and others to essentially “shut off”. The brain communicates through the nervous system and this communication can be disrupted and affected with pain and lead to compensations. Finally, some people may have compensations or movement issues PRIOR to the spondy happening. These may have lead to weakened pelvic muscles that force the spine to handle an abnormal amount of stress leading to a fracture. So some might have had a weakened pelvic region to begin. Whatever the case, the pelvic muscles and group play a major role in proper movement and health. Having them functioning properly is very important.

  5. Sucharita
    1 year ago

    I want a flat belly but have spondylolisthesis grade 2. I also have some issue at the St. My back neck gets pinched pain
    Can you please suggest

    • SpondyInfo
      1 year ago

      Hi Sucharita. Getting a flat belly has a lot to do with diet. A reason many struggle to achieve a flat stomach is the adipose tissue or fat that surrounds the ab muscles. Getting rid of this will help achieve the flat stomach. I explain this in more detail in my multi-series post on losing weight with a spondy. You can read the first part here:

      Give it a read and let me know if you have any further questions. I hope it helps!

  6. smitra
    1 year ago

    Am obliged. I have fat lower abdomen and I neer to also know if I can do walking lunges. May be wrong spelled. But I have spondylolisthesis grade 2
    I will try the above exercise.
    Thanks a ton.

    • SpondyInfo
      1 year ago

      Hello Smitra. Unfortunately there are many factors that need to be considered when it comes to determining if an exercise is safe or not for you. These factors need to be considered by a medical professional or trainer who can physically see you and come to a judgement on the specific exercise and its safety levels for you. Things such as current movement, past injury history, age, training history, spondy type, and fitness levels need to be considered. It is simply a guess on my end when it comes to telling someone over the internet if an exercise is safe for them. I hope the exercise above helps!

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