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3 Ways to Strengthen Your Core (WITHOUT Hurting Your Back)

Core strength and back issues go hand in hand. When someone has a less-than-stellar core, their lower back muscles have to compensate to pick up the slack. On the other hand, when the core is strong, that can lead to the spine being resilient and better equipped to handle the stressors that get thrown our way. There are several ways to strengthen the core, but many of them include putting way too much stress on the spine. Here are the three best exercises I’ve seen to strengthen the abdominal muscles without putting too much strain on the back:

  1. Crunches:
  • Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Place your hands behind your head, keeping your elbows out to the sides.
  • Use your abdominal muscles to lift your shoulders and upper back off the floor (NOTE: the mistake many people make is to lift their chest all the way to their knees. You don’t need to do that in order to meet the goal of this exercise).
  • Exhale as you lift and inhale as you lower back down to the starting position.
  • Be sure to keep your neck relaxed and chin lifted slightly.
  • Repeat for 10-15 reps, and perform 2-3 sets.
  1. Plank:
  • Get into a push-up position with your hands and toes on the floor.
  • Keep your arms straight and your hands directly beneath your shoulders.
  • Engage your core muscles and hold your body in a straight line from your head to your heels.
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or as long as you can maintain proper form.
  • Avoid letting your hips sag or lift too high.
  • Repeat for 2-3 sets.
  1. Bird-dog:
  • Begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  • Reach your right arm straight out in front of you while lifting your left leg straight out behind you.
  • Keep your back straight and your core engaged.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the opposite side, reaching your left arm out in front of you while lifting your right leg behind you.
  • Continue alternating sides for 10-15 reps, and perform 2-3 sets.

Remember to always focus on maintaining proper form and engaging the appropriate muscle groups during each of these exercises. If you feel any pain or discomfort, stop the exercise and I’m happy to assist in modifying the exercise. Also, the repetition recommendations are a general starting point. Some people get a good workout from a lower amount, and some people need more work to feel the burn.

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