As a doctor of physical therapy, low back pain is the most common condition that I treat in my clinic. It never ceases to amaze me how many of these patients would never have even become patients had they followed this one simple rule – you need to be doing some sort of simple core training most days of the week! Keeping a strong, healthy core (your abs, your sides, your lower back, and your hips) is essential not only to pain-free movement, but everyday functional movements as well. Today I wanted to share with you five of my favorite exercises that I feel everyone should be doing to maintain a strong and healthy core. Here we go…
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1. Plank – research has proven that planking actually activates more of your abdominal muscles more effectively than most other ab/core exercises out there. Keep your back straight and your stomach sucked in while holding this position.
3 x 30-second holds for beginners; 3 x 60-second holds for advanced
2. Bridging – terrific at-home exercise for your back and butt. Great for functional strength; the booty pop is an added bonus!
3 sets of 10 for beginners; 3 sets of 20 for advanced (or single leg bridges)
3. Side plank – Side planks are a great exercise to activate and strengthen many of the spine stabilizers in your lower back. You also get great oblique activation to whittle away at those love handles!
3 x 30-second holds each side for beginners; 3 x 60-second holds each side for advanced
4. Bird dogs – don’t let looks deceive you, many people find this one surprisingly difficult! Balance is key in stabilizing as you lift opposite arm and leg while maintaining a flat, neutral back. Bonus points if you can keep your stomach sucked in while performing this exercise!
3 sets of 10 for beginners; 3 sets of 20 for advanced
5. Hip abduction – in my clinic I referred to this one as “Jane Fonda” (did you ever see her workout videos?!). It’s amazing how weak people can get in there lateral hip muscles. This weakness comes on primarily because we rarely perform any motions laterally in our everyday life. Keeping these muscles strong goes along way in helping knee pain, hip pain, and back pain.
3 sets of 10 on each side for beginners; 3 sets of 20 on each side for advanced
There they are! Five of my favorite core strengthening exercises that I feel people should be doing most days of the week. If you’re not already performing regular exercise to strengthen these areas, these exercises are the best place to start!