Is Core Strength REALLY all that Important? “Tighten your core”, “Core strength is key” …core strength, core strength, core strength! There seems to be a lot talk about core strength these days. What’s with all the hype anyway? Is it really that important? Well, the truth is, core strength can help everyone, from competitive athletes to senior who are at risk for falls. Let’s talk about core strength and some of the benefits a strong core will bring to an individual
WHAT IS IT? Your core is made up of 3 layers:
- upper abdominals
- oblique muscles (along either side of your stomach)
- a deep layer of muscles that attach to your spine (erector spinae, glutes, transverse abdominus, etc.)
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? It is important to have a strong core because your core helps to maintain proper posture and keeps your spine in a neutral position. Balance is strongly correlated to core strength and will reduce the risk of falls. It also decreases low back pain and helps to lower the risk of injury for athletes.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT? Here are some tips to ensure you are maintaining strong and supportive core muscles:
Get your Spine Back to Neutral Position: First you need to learn how to stabilize your core by putting your spine in a neutral position. The best way to do this is by perfecting the Abdominal Hollow stretch. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor. Simply pull your belly button down towards your spine, creating a hollow in your abdominals and pushing your back into the floor. Be sure to breathe normally! Hold this for about 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. Once you begin to perfect this position, you can start to perform this when seated or standing. This is a key position that you will want to maintain when doing your core workouts.
Posture Counts! Another simple way to get your core working is by just becoming more aware of your posture. Stand up straight and get into that abdominal hollow position. By doing these, you may already start to feel a decrease in low back pain. Now Strengthen: Here are two great strengthening exercises to get you started:
- Lay on your back with knees bent up and feet shoulder width apart.
- Pull your belly button down towards your spine and lift your hips up towards the ceiling
- Once you are at a comfortable height, hold for 10 seconds and slowly lower
- Work up to 20 repetitions.
- Lay on your stomach and gently push yourself up. Support your weight on your knees (modified plank-beginner) or toes (full plank-advanced) and either your elbows or hands
- Support your back by contracting your abdominal muscles. Be sure to keep your back straight. You should not feel any pain in your back, only muscle tightness in your abdominals
- Hold for 20 seconds and repeat. Work up to 10 repetitions.
- A variation of this exercise is side planks, where you will rolls to one side or the other.
- Don’t forget to maintain your abdominal hollow which will help maintain proper form. These are wonderful exercises to work your core muscles!
A Balancing Act: Balance and a strong core go hand in hand. Consider adding some balance exercises into your core routine. Some examples:
A. Stand on one leg, balance for 20 seconds, repeat with other leg. B. Perform squats or lunges utilizing a BOSU ball. (picture at right)
C. Sit on an exercise/physio ball, kick one leg out, hold, and then the other
D. Advance a bridge position so that your feet are resting on a physio ball and lift up your hips.
The Benefits: By working your core you will notice several useful benefits:
- Your back will feel better and stronger
- It will be easier to maintain better posture
- Your balance will improve, thereby reducing your risk of falls.
- Athletes risk of injury will decrease
So no matter how old you are, what sport you are training for, what you may be trying to rehabilitate, strengthen or slim down, you can always benefit from adding a core workout to your regiment! For more information about how physical therapists can help you get started on the right foot, call us today at 717-625-2228