The Best Core Strengthening Exercises that Won’t Harm Your Back!
THE CORE. We hear about the core and the importance of strengthening the core all the time, and if you’re a patient at Ascent Chiropractic, you’re probably sick of hearing me talk about why you need to be working on your core musculature. A strong core improves balance and stability, promotes good posture and proper pelvic tilt, helps alleviate back pain, and assists in the movement of daily activities.
Yes, a strong core prevents pain and injury. But HOW you strengthen it is crucial.
Many Popular Go-To “Core” Exercises Can Actually Cause Back Pain
The core muscles – abdominals, glutes, and muscles of the torso – keep the spine and pelvis in proper alignment and stabilize the body during movement. They need to be trained in conjunction to stabilize the lower back, but many traditional ab exercises work muscles in isolation.
The problem, according to spinal research expert Dr. Stuart McGill, is that people who perform isolated exercises tend to get hurt sooner than those who do compound exercises – exercises that work to strengthen many muscle groups together.
So why are traditional sit-ups, crunches and other common ab exercises harmful? The truth is that sit-ups and crunches are hard on your spine. They flatten the natural curvature of your lower back against the floor and put repeated flexion on the lumbar spine. Eventually, this overloads the spinal discs, potentially causing serious damage to the low back.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health sets the safe limit for low back compression at 3300N. Sit-Ups place 3500N of compression on the spine. Curl-ups on a stability ball: 4000 N. Superman: 4300 N.
Converting that to units that are easier to grasp, that means that every sit-up puts 786 pounds of compression on the low back. Repeat that movement over and over, and you have yourself a recipe for disaster (disk injuries and long-term chronic pain).
Protect Your Spine! There Are Safer Ways To Strengthen The Core Muscles!
Exercises that maintain a neutral spinal position, as opposed to bending, are the best way to improve core strength while protecting and preventing back pain. These three exercises, also known as McGill’s Big 3, are the best for strengthening your core safely and effectively.
1️⃣ Modified Curl-Up: Lying on your back with one knee bent and one straight puts the pelvis, spine and core muscles in optimal alignment. Place your hand under the arch of your low back, and press into your hand each time you lift your head off the floor. 10-12 curl-ups, 3x.
2️⃣ Bird Dog: On all fours with hands directly below your shoulders and knees directly below hips, squeeze your abs and glutes. Lift right arm up to shoulder level and left leg back and up to hip level. Repeat with the opposite side. 8-10 reps, 3x.
3️⃣ Modified Side Bridge: On your side, place your elbow directly under shoulder. With your knees bent, one touching the floor with the other on top of it, lift your hips off the ground. Reach your top hand up or place it on your bottom shoulder. Squeeze your abs and glutes, and hold. 8-10 seconds, 3x.
Exercises to avoid: Sit-Ups, V-Ups, Crunches, Side/Russian Twists, Superman
Disclaimer: If you experience pain at any point during any exercise, stop! Pain is the body’s way of saying something is wrong, so don’t push yourself. Consult your chiropractor if the pain persists.
The Ascent Chiropractic Difference
At Ascent Chiropractic we work one-on-one with patients to ensure exercises are being performed correctly, and to tailor exercises to the patients’ specific needs. Whether you’re a pro athlete, weekend warrior or just looking to tone up, study after study shows that regular chiropractic care is an essential part of reaching your full potential. Ready to get stronger and looking for a Brookfield chiropractor? To make an appointment at Ascent Chiropractic, call 262-345-4166 or schedule an appointment with our online scheduling app.