Core strengthening exercises include a bit more than just working your abs, which are most visible and get more attention than a strong back.
Having a strong core will include overall strength between your back, your abs and your obliques, or muscles that control the stability of the sides of your body.
Exercises that address just the front of your body will create an imbalance to your body that will draw your shoulders forward and abnormally stretch the muscles across your upper back.
Upper back pain and overstretched muscles is one of the common injuries that occur in people who either just work their abs or who sit at a desk all day with their shoulders rounded forward.
A strong core will hold you spine stable, keep your shoulders back in the correct position and give you abs that make your friends jealous and turn the heads of the opposite sex.
A strong core will also increase your self-confidence, make you stand taller and walk with more grace and ease.
1. The Superman will help improve the strength and stability of your lower back. With a towel under your hips to support your back, lift one arm off the floor and hold for 3 seconds, replace on the floor and repeat with the other arm. Repeat this sequence with the legs and arms.
2. Planks can be done in the position of a traditional push-up or on the side. Both have benefits for your abs, back and obliques.
The traditional plank starts in the push-up position.
Keep your arms straight, back straight, abs tight and hold for 90 seconds. You can do the same thing with your elbows bent and resting your weight through the elbow with the forearm pressed to the floor.
3. Side Planks are done by lying on your side, feet on top of each other, right elbow under the shoulder.
Raise your hips up, raise your left arm in a straight line to the floor and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
4. Side crunch will strengthen your abs without adding a weight load to your lower back.
With your left knee and hand on the floor, your right hand straight up and your back straight, extend the right leg in a straight line with the body.
In one motion, pull the right knee toward your chest and your right elbow to the knee. Straighten and repeat 10 times. Switch sides.
5. Supine Abs is done on your back with your knees bent. Pull your abdominal muscles in and push your lower back to the floor. Hold for a count of 2-3 and relax. Repeat 10 – 20 times.
6. Single leg lifts will help strengthen your lower abdominal muscles, glutes and back. Lie on your back, legs bent and arms pressed to the floor, palms down.
Lift your butt off the floor until your body is straight from knee to shoulder. Slowly raise just your right leg with knee bent, replace and raise your left leg. Alternate 10 -20 repetitions.
“As you incorporate these core strengthening exercises into your programs, remember to pay attention to all aspects of your core – back, front and sides.”
When one area is more developed than the opposite area you become unbalanced which can affect the stability of your spine and increase your risk of back pain.
American University: Core Strength Exercises
Sports Injury Clinic: core Strengthening Exercises
FitDay: Core Strength Training Techniques for Proper Exercise
Women’s Health: 15-Minute Workout
Princeton University: Lumbar/Core Strength and Stability Exercises
RealSimple: 6 Easy Exercises to Strengthen Your Core