The core and core exercises are a hot topic of conversation for trainers and athletes that we see on TV marketing their new line of apparel, water bottles, or shake weights.
As a chiropractor for lower back pain, I encourage everyone to look past the matte coral tones, tightly pulled back hair, and supplement fueled fake positive energy to actually hear what they’re saying. This isn’t about abs, free the mind of that ridiculous obsession. This is about creating a healthy, stable structure from which the body can safely move and grow.
Our core – the muscles in our abs, hips, back, and chest – is the source for all movement in our body. Having a strong core makes us less susceptible to injury, keeps our body properly aligned to avoid nerve dysfunction, and minimizes strain on our muscles and joints. A weak core will force the other structures of the back to work harder to support the body. This is why 80% of Americans experience low back pain – we left core strength in the attic while we got on a plane to spend Christmas in Paris.
Improving core strength is especially important for those of us that work at a desk 6-10 hours a day. These exercises target the core from all angles and will prepare us to heal the world, to make it a better place. For you and for me, for the entire human race.
1. Bird Dog
Impersonation is the best form of flattery and who do we want to flatter more than this guy:
Not only is a bird dog fun to imagine, it’s a great exercise to hit all of the core muscles and the paraspinals, which are the muscles that run down the length of the spine. It’s a great exercise to increase balance so no one ends up looking like this drunkard:
- Start on all fours, like a dog hehe, in tabletop position with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips.
- Extend the right arm forward and the left leg back. Maintain a flat back and keep the hips in line with the
- floor. Think about driving the foot toward the wall behind you.
- Engage the abs and return the arm and the leg to the starting position.
- Continue this movement for 30 seconds and then do it with the other arm and leg.
2. Dead Bug
While we’re down here, let’s roll over onto our backs. The further the legs and hands get from each other, the harder this exercise gets. Muahahaha!
- Lie face up with arms raised to the ceiling and knees raised at a 90º angle stacked over the hips. This is the starting position.
- Slowly extend the right leg straight out while dropping the left arm over head at the same time. Hover both a few inches off the ground. Remember to engage the core Lindsey!
- Bring the arm and leg back to the starting position.
- Repeat this movement with the other limbs, extending the left leg and raising the right arm.
3. Tabletop Leg Press
This exercise is perfect for Lindsey who’s tired of being verbally harassed by trainers to “ENGAGE YOUR CORE!”
It’s great for really understanding what it feels like to engage your core.
- Lie face up like a dead bug, with knees raised at 90º and stacked over the hips.
- Crunch up a few inches by contracting the abs and pressing the low back into the ground.
- Place hands on quads and press the quads into the hands and the hands back into the quads.
- Hold this position. It’s all about the unseen tension happening within the body. Like when someone asks a question that’s been answered three times already.
4. Glute Bridge
Yes, glutes are a part of the core. Make sure to engage them during this exercise while making sure to to hyperextend the back.
- Lie on the back with hands at the sides, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor hip-width apart.
- Lift the hips off the floor until the body is in line from shoulders to knees. Do this by engaging the glutes and abs and pushing through the heels.
- Hold this position and slowly lower the hips to the floor. Do this until they’ll want to sing a rap song about you.
5. Glute Bridge Single-Leg Progression
Low back pain is often caused by shortened hip flexors and a psoas muscle that is carrying way more than it should. Adding this more challenging modifier to the glute bridge is a great way to build up strength and lengthen those help flexors.
- Lie on the back, hands at the sides, knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
- Lift the right leg and grab the back of the thigh with both hands. Gently pull it towards the chest and do any adjusting to the left foot to be towards the center of the body.
- Engage the glutes and core (…Lindsey) and push through the heel driving the hips up so the body is in a straight line.
- Hold this position for a few seconds and then lower to the starting position.
- Do 10 reps on the left side and then repeat on the other side.
6. Forearm Plank
Everybody knows the plank. Everyone is talking about her. She’s brutal, but effective.
- Get in a push up position resting on the forearms. Elbows underneath the shoulders, arms paralell. The body should be on a straight line from head to toe.
- Engage everything – core, glutes, quads and tuck the tush under a little bit to keep the lower back straight.
Careful no to drop or hike up the hips.
- Stare at the hands to keep the neck in a neutral position.
- Hold this position until you die.
7. Side Plank
The little sister to our fearsome queen, always in her sister’s shadow, but proves to be powerful in her own way.
- Place the left hand on the floor, directly underneath the left shoulder. Extend the body so that it’s in one long line.
- Engage the core and butt, lifting the right arm toward the ceiling and gazing up at it in fondness.
- Hold this position and then do it on the other side.
Try gradually increasing the length from 30 seconds to three minutes.
8. Reverse Lunge
Often thought of as just for the legs, the lunge, both forward and reverse, builds glute strength and requires a lot of abdominal control to maintain a stable, neutral position.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width and hands on hips.
- Step back about 2 feet with the left foot. Keep the left heel off the ground by landing on the ball of the foot.
- Bend both knees so they hit 90º. Chest should remain upright, shoulders should be over the hips. The right shin should be perpendicular to the floor and the left knee should be in line with the left ankle.
- Return to the starting position.
- Do a few reps and repeat with the right foot or alternate between right and left.
- Go until you can’t stand up.
9. Forward Lunge
Everything is the same except instead of stepping back, step forward.
This exercise is very 70s, but is great for helping to stabilize the pelvis and the hips.
- Lie on the left side with elbow bent. If it’s more comfortable, feel free to prop up the head with the left hand.
- Stack the right leg on top of the left and bend both knees to form a 45º angle.
- Slowly lift the right knee up to the ceiling all the while keeping the feet touching. This movement should be initiated by the glutes, squeezing while lifting. Squeeze Lindsey, squeeze…poor Lindsey.
- Lower the right leg and repeat until there’s enough to make a necklace.
Though this is essentially the same move:
Often times we turn to OTC 💊 or other addictive painkillers to mask the pain we might be feeling from weak or overused muscles.
Exactly. That is not a solution that will lead to long-term pain relief.
Stabilizing the spine through strengthening the core is critical to being able to function pain-free. When the balance of our muscles is thrown off, the structure of our spine is left rudderless. We need our spine to stay stable as it houses the nerves that control our entire body. When those nerves are interfered with we get pain and dysfunction.
We specialize in correcting the structural imbalances that can lead to low back pain. Through the combination of our specific chiropractic care, massage therapy, spinal decompression, deep tissue laser, we have a variety of tools to help address issues at their core, 😉, to keep the body functioning properly and prevent pain from ever returning. Call our office or schedule a time to talk to one of our awesome doctors. Lower back pain relief is possible. Lasting lower back pain relief is possible. We’re here to walk you through it.