How to Exercise Without Using Stomach Muscles

Woman on weight machine

Your abdominal muscles support you in most activities you do daily, including exercise. If you're recovering from abdominal surgery or an injury to the muscles of the abdomen, your doctor may advise you to avoid exercises that use these muscles. You are not banished to the couch while your condition heals, but you may be restricted to machine-based and bench-supported moves with light weights to prevent your abdominal muscles from assisting. If you're recovering from an injury or surgery, be sure to clear any exercises with your doctor before trying them.

Do a weight machine circuit for the upper body. Do a round of 10 to 12 repetitions of the chest press machine, the lever curl, the lever row and lever triceps extension in quick succession. Rest for a minute and then repeat the circuit two more times. Use a weight that makes you feel fatigued by the last couple of repetitions, but not so fatigued that you lose form and brace yourself with the abdominal muscles.

Use the seated leg press and seated leg curl machines to work the front and back of each thigh. Do 10 to 12 repetitions of each, resting about 30 seconds between exercises. Complete between one and three sets. Keep the weight at a manageable level so you don't arch your back or strain your abs to maintain proper form. Position the seat for the leg press slightly farther back than you might normally so you don't squeeze the abdominals when you bend the knees.

Use a weight bench to perform the barbell bench press and dumbbell bent-over rows. Complete between 10 and 12 of each of these exercises for one to three sets. Support yourself fully on the weight bench and choose a weight lighter than you might normally use, to prevent your abdominal muscles from kicking in to assist.


When you're exercising without using the abdominal muscles, try to maintain your fitness level and existing muscle mass rather than to build more strength. Focus on health and healing.


With exercise, there's always a risk that you might use your abdominal muscles. If you feel any pain or strain in the region, stop exercising immediately and consult your doctor.