When we talk about strengthening the core body muscles, we are talking about your abdomen and back – your trunk. It is important to keep these muscles strong because they support your posture and spine; strong core muscles minimize strain on your back, especially the lower back. Below we describe three exercises that you can do at home to strengthen your core body muscles. After following this series of exercises over several weeks you will begin to notice stronger muscles.
The purpose of the first exercise is to warm up and strengthen your back muscles. Start this exercise on hands and knees. Ensure you are on a padded surface, such as carpet, to prevent injury to your knees.
Warm up the spine by arching the back down while gazing upwards slightly – imagine forming a U-shape with your torso. Then push your back up towards the ceiling while rounding the shoulders and looking down. After doing this 2-3 times, bring your back to a flat resting position. These are referred to in yoga class as “cat, cow poses.”
Next, breathe in and lift your right leg and left arm extending your limbs up and out away from the body. The goal is to make a flat plane with your arm, your back and your leg. Then slowly release your arm and leg back down on the exhale. One the next inhale, raise and extend your left leg and your right arm, again making a flat plane with your back.
Repeat this exercise for 8-10 breaths.
The second exercise strengthens the deep muscles of your abdomen. This is a fairly strenuous exercise, so begin slowly and gradually work up to a longer time. It is a version of the “plank pose.”
Begin on hands and knees; place your elbows and forearms on the floor, making a fist with both hands. Move your feet back and push your legs and torso into a “push up” position in which your forearms are supporting your weight. Keep your legs, torso and neck all in a straight line so your body is on an even plane elevated slightly above the floor.
Try to hold this pose for 30 seconds. It’s harder than you think! Focus on keeping your neck relaxed; we have a tendency to tighten our neck muscles unnecessarily in exercises like this.
The final exercise strengthens the back and shoulder muscles as well as the deep abdominal muscles. It also improves your balance.
Start this exercise standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart. While breathing in, bend at the knees and hips and arch the low back as if you are about to sit in a chair. Try not to lean forward too much.
As you lower yourself, this stretch your arms out to the sides and bring them up until they extend out just above shoulder height. Relax your neck and try to look up toward the ceiling. However, if you feel unsteady at all, look straight ahead, or rest one hand on a wall to steady yourself.
The deeper you sit, the more effort this posture requires. Work up to hold this pose for 15-20 seconds.
How often should I do these exercises?
These exercises should be done at least three times a week, but every day is best. The more your use your muscles, the more quickly you will notice the increase in strength. As your core muscles become stronger, you will notice muscle strain and spasms are decreased. You will have a healthier back and experience less pain.