Our bodies function at their best when muscles work in sync with one another.
Weak muscles, especially in the core and pelvis, can sometimes lead to back pain and affect our daily activities. In previous articles, we listed general guidelines for maintaining a healthy back such as regular exercise, increasing flexibility, proper lifting techniques, and weight management. Now let's take a look at how to properly strengthen the core to help prevent injury, reduce back pain, and trim the waistline.
The core is more than just a set of washboard abs.
It is comprised of over 30 muscles that cross the trunk and hips, also known as the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip complex (LPHC).
Under the "6-pack" are multiple layers of abdominal muscles.
Each muscle group has their own primary movement pattern that can be strengthened through isolated exercises such as crunches. More importantly, these muscle groups work together to create stability and protection to the spine during daily activities.
Try these simple, no equipment exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the spine.*
The gluteus maximus is the large muscle of the buttocks. It’s one of the strongest muscles in the body. It’s responsible for movement at the hip, including hip extension activities like squats.
Weakness in the gluteus muscles can contribute to back pain. This is because they’re important stabilizers of the hip joints, and of the lower back during movements like walking.
Lie on the ground with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
With your hands by your sides, press your feet into the floor as you slowly lift your buttocks off the ground until your body is in one straight line. Keep your shoulders on the floor.
Lower back down. Rest for 1 minute.
Repeat 15 times.
Perform 3 sets.
2. Drawing in maneuver - (Waist Trimmer)
The transverse abdominis is the muscle that wraps around the midline. It helps support the spine and abdomen, acting like a corset. It’s important for stabilizing the spinal joints and preventing injury during movement.
1. Lie on the ground with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
2. Relax your hands by your sides.
3. Take a deep breath in. Breathe out and pull your bellybutton into your spine, engaging your abdominal muscles without tilting your hips.
4. Hold the contact for 5 seconds.
5. Repeat 5 times.
3. Lying lateral leg raises
The hip abductor muscles help to raise the leg to the side, away from the body. They also help support the pelvis when standing on one leg. When these muscles are weak, it can affect balance and mobility. It can also cause low back pain due to instability.
1. Lie on one side, keeping your lower leg slightly bent on the ground.
2. Engage your core by drawing your bellybutton into your spine.
3. Raise the top leg without moving the rest of your body.
4. Hold for 2 seconds at the top. Repeat 10 times.
5. Repeat on other side. Perform 3 sets on each side.
The back extensors run along the spine. They help you maintain an upright position, support the spine and pelvic bones, and allow you to arch the back. If this exercise makes your back pain worse, refrain from doing it until you receive further evaluation. Your doctor may need to rule out more serious causes of back pain.
1. Lie on your stomach with your arms extended out in front of you and your
2. Lift your hands and feet off the ground approximately 6 inches, or until you feel a contraction in your lower back.
3. Engage your core muscles by slightly lifting your bellybutton off the floor. Reach away with your hands and feet. Be sure to look at the floor during this exercise to avoid neck strain.
4. Hold for 2 seconds.
5. Return to starting position.
6.Repeat 10 times.
5. Partial curls
The abdominal muscles play a significant role in supporting the spine. Strong abdominal muscles can help maintain proper hip alignment. This can contribute to overall core strength and stability.
1. Lie on the ground with your feet flat on the floor, keeping your knees bent.
2. Cross your hands over your chest.
3. Take a deep breath. While you breathe out, brace your abdominals by pulling your bellybutton in toward your spine.
4. Slowly lift your shoulders off the ground a couple of inches. Try to keep your neck in line with your spine instead of rounding, to avoid pulling up with your neck.
5. Return to starting position.
6. Repeat 10 times. Perform 3 sets.
*Always consult a doctor before beginning a new exercise program. If you suffered a traumatic injury like a fall or accident, always seek medical help and further evaluation to rule out serious conditions. If these exercises cause your back pain to increase, stop and seek medical help. Only work within your physical limits. Doing too much, too fast can increase back pain and slow down the healing process.
Modifying daily activities like squatting down to pick up items off the ground can also help prevent low back pain, and/or muscle spasms.
Start incorporating these simple, no equipment exercises into your daily routine and reap the benefits for years to come.