One of the best ways to protect your back, minimize episodes of low back pain, and support your chiropractic treatment is to strengthen your core muscles. Contrary to popular belief, that does not mean simply doing hundreds of sit-ups a day. Your core muscles consist of a number of muscles found from the center of your ribs (rectus abdominus) all the way down to your hamstrings in your legs. Therefore in order to strengthen all of these muscles you need a variety of exercises to target each one. There are an unbelievable amount of exercises and miracle pieces of equipment out there promising to give you those washboard abs, but you have to be careful which ones you choose because some of them may actually do your body more harm than good. Below are 5 exercises that are excellent at focusing on the core muscles without putting harmful stress on your back. As with any exercise program please consult a healthcare professional before beginning a new program.
Plank – Plank is a yoga pose that doesn’t involve any equipment and is fantastic at strengthening the core. Lie on your stomach and raise yourself up so you are balancing on your forearms and knees (for a great challenge balance on your forearms and toes). Tighten your abdominal muscles and be sure to keep your head inline with your back and to keep a flat back. You will find yourself in a position similar to a push-up without the movement. Do not let your stomach sink towards the ground or push your bottom up into the air. Hold for 15-30 seconds and lower. For an additional challenge try to lift one leg slightly off the ground and hold, then repeat with the opposite leg.
Side Plank – Similar to plank but it concentrates more on the oblique muscles. Lie on your side and raise yourself up so you are balancing on your forearm and knees (or feet). Push your hip up into the air but be careful to keep your body in a straight line. Do not roll forward or back. For an additional challenge balance on your hand and feet and raise the opposite hand into the air.
Bridge – Lie on your back and bend your knees, keeping your feet parallel with your shoulders. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your hips off the ground until they are in line with your knees and shoulders. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
Quadruped – Start on your hands and knees, with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Make sure you keep your back flat and keep your head in line with your back. Tighten your abdominals and slowly extend one arm and the opposite leg out until they are in line with your back. Hold for 15 seconds then return to starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
Superman – lay on your stomach with your arms stretched out over your head. Slowly lift your chest, head and arms up into the air and hold for 15-30 seconds. For an additional challenge lift your legs up into the air at the same time.