Top 5 Exercises to Strengthen Your Core and Protect Your Back!

According to Carey and Freburger, more than 80% of Americans will experience an episode of low back pain at some time in their lives. There are many things that cause back pain such as an acute injury or improper use of muscles. It is important to keep our core muscles strong and working properly to decrease the risk of injury.
So what exactly is our CORE? The core consists of muscles surrounding the torso; front, back, sides and pelvis.

Some of my favorite exercises to do are: Bridging, Dead Bug, Bird Dogs, Planks and Clamshells. Keep in mind all the exercises should be performed activating your lower abdominals, most importantly the transverse abdominis. This muscle is characterized as your internal girdle, helping support and unload your spine. By pulling your belly button to your spine, slightly decreasing the curve in your low back this muscle can be activated. I always say if you tighten your stomach as if you were bracing yourself to receive a punch, this will help engage the transverse abdominis.

Bridging
While lying on your back, tighten your lower abdominals, squeeze your buttocks and then raise your buttocks off the floor/bed as creating a “Bridge” with your body. Hold and then lower yourself and repeat.

Dead Bug
While lying on your back with your knees and hips bent to 90 degrees, tightening lower abdominals to keep your back flat, slowly straighten out a leg without touching the floor. At the same time raise an opposite arm over head. Do not allow your spine to arch during this movement.
Retrun to starting position and then repeat on the opposite side.

Bird Dogs
While on all fours, brace at your abdominals and then slowly straighten a leg and opposite arm upwards. Maintain a level and stable pelvis and spine the entire time.
Retrun to starting position and then repeat on the opposite side.

Planks (Forward and Side)
While lying face down, lift your body up on your elbows and toes. Keep your elbows under your shoulders and maintain a straight spine. Do not allow your hips to drop. This can be performed on knees as well.

While lying on your side with your knees bent, keep your elbow under your shoulder and shoulder, hip and knee in a line, lift your body up on your elbow and knees. To progress this try going onto your toes versus your knees.

Clamshells
While lying on your side with your knees bent, draw up the top knee while keeping contact of your feet together.  Do not let your hip roll back during the lifting movement.

Perform each exercise until fatigue and 2 sets of each progressing to 3 sets as you can. If you are experiencing low back pain, seek help from a physical therapist.

Pictures courtesy of HEP2go.

Kerra Pietsch, LPTA
Andover Physical Therapy

February 21st, 2018

Posted In: General

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