Have you ever had that sagging feeling at the end of a long day? You know, when your belly seems to protrude way out and your back aches. The main reason for this is your lack of core strength. Your core is made up of a variety of muscles that support your trunk and spine. These include your abdominal, erector spinal, multifidi, pelvic, and hip muscles. A healthy, strong and flexible core is the key to having great posture, a slim stomach, relieving back pain, and feeling energetic.
Here are 4 easy ways to boost your core strength
(Consult a physical therapist if you are unsure of performing any of the following exercises)
Engage your transverse abdominis
The transverse abdominis is a deep muscle that wraps around the lower section of your abdomen, much like a belt. The ability to actively engage this muscle helps to put your spine into better alignment. Begin to work this muscle, by lying on your back with your hands on your lower abdomen. Focus on relaxing all other muscles, except for drawing your lower abdominals in towards your belly button. Hold these contractions gently, but firmly for 10 seconds, then repeat 10 times. Once you get the hang of contracting your transverse abdominis lying down, begin to contract it in sitting, then standing. This is a great exercise to do any time of day and especially if your back is beginning to feel a little tired. This exercise is a must for any mom, as the abdominals become stretched out during pregnancy.
Strengthen your hip abductors
The hip abductors are on the outside of your hips and consist mainly of your gluteus medius and minimus. These muscles are easy to exercise standing up. Simply hold onto a firm surface and lift your leg out to the side for 10-15 repetitions. Feel the muscles working on the outside of the hip. Do at least 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions each side.
Mini-squats with squeezes
When you do dynamic exercises you are able to work a wide variety of muscle groups together. Put a ball, such as a soccer or volleyball between your knees. If you don’t have a ball, place a rolled up pillow. Gently squeeze the ball between your knees and practice the tightening of your transverse abdominis as described above. Now, holding onto a steady surface, squat down slightly and try to feel your thighs, stomach and back working together to lower you down and push you up. Start out with 2 sets of 10 reps, then work your way up over a week to 3 sets of 15.
Alternate arms and legs
If you have back pain, consult your physical therapist before trying this. Perform this exercise lying flat on your stomach, with a pillow under your hips and lower abdomen for comfort. Resting your forehead on the floor, lift your right leg up slightly, then your left arm. You will feel this contracting the muscles in your spine. Now gently lower and repeat on the other side. Try 10 repetitions, then over the course of a week, work your way up to 2 sets of 15 repetitions. Remember not to go into any pain with this exercise and you only need to raise your arm and legs up 2-3 inches off the floor.
The key to a healthy spine
The stronger and better coordinated your core muscles, the healthier your back can become. Having a strong core is critical to alleviating neck pain or back pain. Common conditions such as spinal stenosis, herniated discs and low back pain, can be significantly helped by improving core strength. Our physical therapists are the unique medical specialists trained in analyzing your movement and strength. We teach you how to properly activate your core muscles for long-term maximum spine health. If your core feels weak, or if you are having back or neck discomfort, call us today to speak with one of our PT specialists. Your spine will be glad you did!