Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Mastering GHD Sit-Ups: A Guide to Preventing Low Back Pain with Mend Colorado

November 11, 2022

Seeing GHD sit-ups on the whiteboard at the start of your CrossFit workout can be a make-or-break moment. It’s a movement that either leaves you excited or apprehensive. This exercise hammers the anterior muscle chain, demanding precise timing and execution. Unfortunately, without the right preparation, performing uncontrolled, extreme extensions of the lumbar spine during GHD sit-ups can lead to low back pain or injury. 

The lumbar spine, a robust structure, can withstand significant forces and movement, but the demands of CrossFit can sometimes exceed its capacity. Common issues such as strains and irritation can then disrupt your routine, forcing modifications to your workouts for weeks or even months. 


Strengthening the Core Muscles

To minimize the risk of low back injury and discomfort during GHD sit-ups, targeting specific muscles is crucial. The success of this movement relies heavily on eccentric control of the quadriceps, iliopsoas, and rectus abdominis muscles. Strengthening these muscles enhances your performance in GHD sit-ups and contributes to overall lumbar spine stability. Incorporate the following into your routine to fortify the anterior chain and prevent lumbar collapse:

  1. Eccentric Quadriceps Control: Focus on the controlled lengthening of the quadriceps muscles during exercises like leg extensions. This builds strength and improves your ability to control the descent in GHD sit-ups.
  2. Iliopsoas Strengthening: Perform exercises that target the iliopsoas, such as leg raises or hanging leg lifts. A strong iliopsoas contributes to better control of the hip flexors, which is essential for maintaining stability during GHD sit-ups.
  3. Rectus Abdominis Activation: Engage your rectus abdominis with exercises like planks and hollow body holds. These movements enhance the endurance and strength of your abdominal muscles, reducing the risk of lumbar strain.


Check out the videos below for examples of specific exercises that will help:

1.     Anterior Hip Mobilization, followed by Eccentric Hip Flexor Strengthening

2.     Anterior Chain Quadruped Sliders

3.     Toes to Bar with Slow Controlled Leg lower

4.     GHD Face Up Plank


Additional Considerations

In addition to targeted muscle strengthening, consider these factors to further enhance your GHD sit-up performance and reduce the risk of low back issues: 

  • Proper Warm-up: Ensure a comprehensive warm-up that includes dynamic stretches for the hips and spine to prepare your body for the demands of GHD sit-ups.
  • Progressive Loading: Gradually increase the intensity of your GHD sit-ups, allowing your body to adapt and build strength progressively.
  • Consistent Form: Focus on maintaining proper form throughout the movement, avoiding excessive arching or collapsing of the lumbar spine.

Mastering GHD sit-ups is not just about conquering a challenging CrossFit movement; it’s about safeguarding your lower back from potential issues. Strengthening specific muscle groups and thoughtful considerations like warming up and maintaining proper form can significantly reduce the risk of low back pain. 


Ready to Take Your GHD Sit-Ups to the Next Level? 

If you experience low back tightness, discomfort, or pain during or post a GHD sit-up heavy WOD and are considering physical therapy in Boulder or Lafayette, turn to Mend Colorado. We have CrossFit-focused PTs who provide personalized guidance and expert insights. Strengthen your foundation and optimize your performance with our specialized approach. Your pain-free CrossFit journey starts here. Reach out today to make an appointment at our Boulder or Lafayette physical therapy clinic. At Mend Colorado, we’re dedicated to helping you achieve your fitness goals while prioritizing your overall well-being.