Situps are typically the standard exercise for achieving six-pack abs, but when that exercise leaves your tailbone sore and bruised, you might be at a loss. Because your tailbone -- clinically known as the coccyx -- is the site of the base of your spine, it's packed with nerve endings that could have your writhing in pain when you apply too much pressure. Still, flatter abs don't have to be a pipe dream if your tailbone is causing you grief. Putting some safeguards in place can help relieve pain so you can add situps to your workout again.
The pain you feel on your tailbone while doing situps is usually the result of two issues: poor form and excess pressure. Both work together to pit the floor against your coccyx, causing shooting pains and post-workout soreness. Of course, if you've had a tailbone or lower spine injury in the past, you'll be more likely to suffer with this specific type of pain. Still, anyone at risk for poor posture or a lack of cushioning can experience a sore tailbone while doing situps.
Improper posture is usually the first culprit when solving the mystery of coccyx pain. During a perfectly executed situp, your tailbone should not bear the weight of your body. Instead, when you move from the rest position into a situp, you only need to lift your upper back off of the floor, allowing your lower back to protect your tailbone. This engages the abdominal muscles without extra pain and pressure on the coccyx. If you do choose to sit all the way up until your chest meets your knees, you're at a higher risk for spine and tailbone pain and likely need better cushioning.
If you're sure that your posture is perfect when executing a situp, but you're still experiencing pain, your tailbone is likely the victim of a lack of cushioning. Doing situps on a bare, hard floor presses your spine along an unforgiving surface. The solution is to invest in a thick, foam exercise mat to help reduce the pressure placed on the back and tailbone. Or, grab an exercise ball and do situps while reclined on the ball instead. Not only does it reduce pressure on the tailbone, but also the added degree of instability can help you engage your core muscles even more.
If your tailbone pain is the result of a previous injury, exercises like situps will likely always aggravate your issues. That's where standing ab exercises come in handy. Instead of putting the pressure on your tailbone and spine, standing ab exercises still isolate the ab muscles, but without the pain. For instance, get a kettlebell and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. With the kettlebell held in both hands, raise it over your right shoulder and then down to your left foot. Repeat 12 to 15 times and switch to your other side to complete the set. You'll still get an ab workout, but you can ditch the floor.