In our last session we discussed the “core” muscles and learned that there are actually 29 muscles that make up your core. They include the all the gluteal muscles (maximus, medius and minimus), hip muscles, back and abdominal muscles.
Today I would like to offer you ten exercises to stabilize and strengthen all 29 muscles that make up your core.
Remember, check with your medical practitioner and/or physical therapist if you have any questions. STOP any exercise that causes discomfort or pain.
If you’re just starting, begin by performing 12 repetitions and work up to 30 repetitions.
1. BRIDGING: Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Pull your belly button in towards your spine, curl your tailbone up, squeeze your buttocks and push your hips toward the ceiling. Pause at the top then lower your hips back down to the floor.
2. HIP ABDUCTIONS: Lie on your right side with your legs stacked on top of each other. Your body should be in a straight line. Tuck your arm under your head to support your neck. Tighten the top leg and raise it up about 6-8 inches. (If you raise it too high it will not focus on the muscles that you need).
3. HEEL SQUEEZES: lie on your stomach. You can place a small pillow under your hips to protect your lower back. Put your forehead on the back of your hands. It will protect your neck. Bend your knees and put your heels together. Squeeze your heels together, pause and release.
4. OPPOSITE ARM AND LEG RAISES: While still on your stomach, extend your right arm straight out. Tighten the muscles in your right shoulders while tightening your buttocks and raising your left leg. Pause then lower your right arm and left. Complete all repetitions then repeat with left arm and right leg.
5. TORSO LIFT: Again on your stomach, put arms by your sides, palms facing down. Place your forehead on the floor, chin tucked in. Pull in your belly button, squeeze your flutes and pinch your shoulder blades together. Slowly lift your chest and arms off the floor. Pause then lower to the floor.
6. THE PLANK: Yes, you are still on your stomach! Push up on your arms, place your elbows under your shoulders and rest on your forearms, with your hands pointing forward. Pull your belly button in, squeeze your gluteal muscles (buttocks) and lift your hips off the floor, so that you are resting on your elbows, forearms, and the balls of the your feet. At this point your body should be level from your shoulders to your ankles. Try to hold this plank position up to two minutes. Work up to the two minutes slowly. Start by doing six, ten second holds. Then four fifteen second holds, three twenty second holds, etc. Work up to holding for a full minute, then two.
7. LOWER LEG ROTATIONS: Turn over onto your back. Bring your knees up and place feet flat and legs together. Pull in your belly button and place your arms in a "T" position. Slowly lower your legs to the right, toward the floor. (You want to keep your shoulders on the floor so you focus on the oblique abdominals.) Pause, then "pull” your legs back to the starting position. Repeat all repetitions to the right, then go to the left.
8. STRAIGHT LEG RAISES: Lie on your right side, stacking your legs one on top of the other. Your body should be in a straight line. Tuck your right arm under your head for support and roll your hips slightly toward the floor. Tighten the muscles above your left hip just below the lower rib cage and slightly raise both legs off the floor. Pause then return to the start. Repeat all your repetitions then roll onto your left side and repeat the exercise.
The last two exercises are done standing and help to prepare you for all your activities.
9. STANDING OPPOSITE ARM AND KNEE LEFTLIFT: Stand with feet hip- width apart, keeping your chest high and abdominals tight. Raise your right arm straight up to the ceiling while raising your left knee up to your left hip. Repeat all repetitions on this side, and then perform the exercise with the left arm and right knee.
10. STANDING STEP BACK WITH ARM REACH: Stand with feet hip width apart, chest high and abdominals tight. Raise your right arm to the ceiling while stepping back with you right foot. Be sure to flatten your foot against the floor. Squeeze your buttocks, pause then return to the start position. Perform all your repetitions before working the left side.
With springtime on its way, many of us will start to renew our outdoor activities. Whether it’s golf, tennis, walking or gardening (just to name a few) a strong core will help your perform better, longer and avoid overuse injuries.
Next time, we will talk about high- intensity interval training, its benefits and how even beginners can benefit from a modified approach to this new way of working out. Whether it’s with kettlebells, weights, biking or walking, you will be able to get more bang for your workout dollar and health.
In Health, Marsha Mann, M.E.S. 703-307-6280
Too many presents to carry, bending over to wrap them, toting the holiday tree and let’s not forget the hours of standing to shop, cook and wait in line. Our lower backs take the brunt of all these activities and more. During this exceptionally busy time it’s important to maintain the “health” of our back and yes ourselves.
Two of the most overused stretches when someone has lower back discomfort are the knees to chest and hamstring stretches. While these stretches are important they are not the primary stretches I use with my back clients. Why, because where you feel the discomfort may not be the problem area. In fact, most clients who initially come to me with low back pain have tight (& weak) muscles in the front of the thigh, chest and “core”.
If you haven’t been diagnosed with a disc or spinal issue such as herniated disc, stenosis, etc., you can address muscle weaknesses and imbalance and alleviate your lower back discomfort.
Try these exercises and stretches and let me know:
- Standing tall with feet shoulder width apart, raise your right arm to the ceiling and your left knee to your left hip. Pause then repeat 12 times. Then repeat with left arm and right knee.
- Stand facing a wall/back of chair with feet hip width apart. Place your hands on the wall for support, raise your right knee to hip height and (gently) swing your right ankle side to side
- On the floor, lying on your back with knees up and feet flat, tighten your tush muscles and push your hips to the ceiling 12-15 times.
- Then roll over to your stomach and place your forehead on the back of your right hand. Extend your left arm above your head placing the thumb to the ceiling. Gently and slowly raise your left arm and right leg slightly off the floor, pause then repeat 12 times. Repeat with right arm and left leg. You want to feel like the muscles in the back of the shoulder and tush are “lifting” the arm and leg. And don’t go too high that will over extend the muscles.
*Remember to check with your physician if you have a medical reason for your back discomfort.
While these exercises and stretches will help with your back discomfort they do not replace exercises you have been given by your physician, physical therapist or chiropractor. Many lower back issues may be caused by other musculoskeletal problems such as a shoulder, knee or foot injury. These injuries impact how the body move and stabilize.