Best Exercises for Abdominal Hernia

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 17, 2020

An abdominal hernia is when an internal organ, often the intestines or bladder, pokes through the wall of muscle that usually keeps it in. Most are inguinal hernias (occurring in the lower abdominal groin area near the inguinal canal) or femoral hernias (occurring near the femoral canal, also in the groin area). However, there are also umbilical hernias, which occur near the belly button, and hiatal hernias, in the upper abdomen.

Abdominal exertion or heavy exercise is one cause of abdominal hernias. If you already have an abdominal hernia, you must be extra careful when you exercise. After hernia surgery, there are exercises you can do to help with healing and to increase core strength to prevent a hernia from recurring.

Exercises to Help Abdominal Hernia

Before you do any exercises for abdominal hernia, consult your doctor. Many of these exercises are best performed when recovering from hernia surgery at the direction of a physical therapist or doctor.

Sit to Stand

  • Step 1: Sit down and come to the edge of the chair.
  • Step 2: Activate your core muscles.
  • Step 3: Lean your torso over your legs, shifting weight into your feet.
  • Step 4: Extend your legs, standing up fully. 

Seated Knee Extensions

  • Step 1: Sit in a chair with a back. Sit with your back against the chair.
  • Step 2: Lift up one leg, straightening it. 
  • Step 3: Lower that leg slowly and repeat on the other side.

Pelvic Floor Contractions

  • Step 1: Lay on your back.
  • Step 2: Take a few deep breaths.
  • Step 3: When you exhale, tighten your pubococcygeal muscles (the ones you would use to hold in urine).

Forward Lunges

  • Step 1: Stand with one foot a bit in front of the other.
  • Step 2: Take a step forward with your back leg.
  • Step 3: Allow the front knee to bend, lowering you down toward the ground.
  • Step 4: Don't put your back knee fully on the ground.
  • Step 5: Stand up again and repeat on the other foot.

Button Pulls

  • Step 1: Lie on your back.
  • Step 2: Bend your knees, keeping your feet on the floor or bed.
  • Step 3: Breathe in.
  • Step 4: As you exhale, bring your belly button towards your spine, activating your abdominal muscles. 
  • Step 5: Hold for a few seconds.
  • Step 6: Relax and return to normal breathing.

Core Twists

  • Step 1: Lie on your back.
  • Step 2: Bend your knees, keeping your feet on the bed or floor.
  • Step 3: Lower both knees to one side.
  • Step 4: Return the knees to the center.
  • Step 5: Repeat on the other side.

Pelvic Tilts

  • Step 1: Lie on your back.
  • Step 2: Bend your knees, with your feet remaining on the bed or floor.
  • Step 3: Place your hands under your lower back.
  • Step 4: Tilt your pelvis forward, straightening the spine and activating your abdominal muscles.
  • Step 5: Hold for a few seconds.
  • Step 6: Return to the starting position and repeat.

Safety Considerations

While these exercises can help prevent another abdominal hernia after surgery, it is also important to take it easy and listen to your body. It can take 12 weeks after surgery to return to your normal activity levels. Start by doing fewer repetitions and lighter exercises, and as you heal, do more repetitions and more strenuous movements.

Your pain levels should not go up much when doing these exercises. You should stop doing an exercise if your pain goes up more than two points on the 10 point pain scale. 

Show Sources


Cleveland Clinic: "Hernia."

Highgate Private Hospital: "Great Exercises to Help Recover from Hernia Surgery."

Abdominal Core Health Quality Collaborative: "Abdominal Core Surgery Rehabilitation Protocol Patient Guide."

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