Strong Back Strong Core
By Audrey Turner, EP
You might have heard the saying that “if you have a strong back, you have a strong core” or visa versa. Core strengthening should be focused on for more reasons than achieving a six pack of abs. Yes, having strong abdominal muscles will likely help to prevent injury and in turn lower back pain. The stronger your core is, the less strain on your spine because the muscles take some of the load off your spine.
If your abdominal wall is weak, then the other supporting muscles (back muscles) will have to work harder to do day to day activities. By developing stronger core muscles, you’ll be less likely to injure your back.
Because your core is in the center of your body, it needs to be strong to help support the weight of your entire body. Adding core strengthening exercises to your exercise routine will help to protect your back and neck.
It is important to incorporate exercises that work each muscle equally, including the transverse abdominals (the deep muscle), internal and external oblique, and rectus abdominis (the “6 pack” muscles). Exercises that work the core muscles consist of the following:
Knee Plank: Begin by lying on your stomach on a flat surface with your elbows bent, and weight on forearms. Push your hips back and up so that your weight is now on your elbows and knees. Keep your back in a neutral position. Make sure to engage your stomach muscles. Hold the exercise for 30 seconds. Repeat for 1-3 sets. You can lengthen the amount of time to hold the exercise over time as it gets easier.
Knee Side Plank: Begin by lying on one side with your arm bent like you are resting on it. Your knees should be bent and tucked behind you. Lift your body up so that your weight is on the elbow and the side of the knee. Hold the exercise for 30 seconds, then slowly returning back to the starting position. Repeat on each side 1-3 times.
Crunch: Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and hands just behind the ears, supporting the head and elbows out wide. Inhale in and then exhale on the exertion as you crunch up bringing the shoulder blades off the floor and return to starting position. Repeat for 10-15 reps and 1-3 sets.
Bird Dog: Begin in “table top” position or all fours. Your hands should be under the shoulders and knees under hips. Keep your back, head and spine in a straight/neutral position. Extend the right arm out in front of you, hold for 5-10 seconds. Slowly bring the arm back to the floor and extend the opposite leg straight back and hold for 5-10 seconds. Return to your original starting position. Do the same thing on the opposite side 10 repetitions each.
Now that you’re building up those strong core muscles, sit up straight and take pride in your accomplishment!