As a doctor of physical therapy, I see a lot of patients in my clinic for a lot of different reasons.
Sure I see my fair share of sprains and strains and bumps and bruises, but by far the most common condition I treat is low back pain.
It’s estimated that 80% of us will experience some episode of low back pain in our lives. Think of it – that’s 4 out of every 5 people!
Keeping a strong core is crucial not only to performance enhancement and activity, but overall function as well. In fact – many of my patients with back pain would likely not even have their pain if they kept their core strong and healthy.
That being said, today I wanted to share with you the 5 core exercises that I recommend more than any others. These are exercises you can do everyday to strengthen your core, feel healthier, and even mitigate some pain.
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(Beginner and Intermediate options are shown for each exercise)
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!