Your core muscles play a very important role in providing proper posture and support of the spine. When people think of core muscles, they generally think about their stomach muscles or abs. While your abdominal muscles do make up part of your core, they are not the only muscles. Your lower back muscles (erector spinae) and glutes are also crucial components of the core.
Collectively, the core muscles help in pulling the shoulders back and allow you to sit up straight and stand up tall. Additionally, your core muscles actively engage when performing various activities so as to hold the body rigid and support the spine. A strong core helps to prevent injury to the spinal column and helps to prevent excessive motion of the joints in the spine. If the muscles are not strong enough, the body can push past its intended boundaries for motion and can cause damage to the ligaments, facet joints and disc between the bones of your spine. All of which can lead to increased pain and dysfunction.
So, what can be done to increase your core strength?
1) Work on tightening your abdominal muscles at various times throughout your day. Like with any habit, repetition is key. Start by working on this 10 times a day and try associating it with simple cues like every time your cellphone rings.
2) When working out incorporate bridges, planks and side planks into your routine. These are exercises that can also be performed when watching television or while at home. These exercises hold the body rigid and actively engage the core. See images below.
3) Take a yoga or Pilates class at your local, neighborhood studio. Both yoga and Pilates classes actively engage your core with a variety of postures, positions and moves.
4) Incorporate stability exercises into your routine. Performing your normal exercises like pushups, lunges or squats on a bosu ball can help in increasing core activation and lead to greater core strength.
Incorporating some or all of these exercises is a great start to strengthening your core. These exercises can help in supporting your spine and can potentially prevent you from experiencing pain throughout your back. So, why wait? Be proactive and get started on these exercises today. I promise these exercises are a lot easier to perform when pain is not present.