Top 3 Exercises to Maintain your Core Strength and a Healthy Back
Back pain accounts for more than 264 million lost work days in one year; that’s 2 full work days for every worker in the US. While most cases of low back pain while resolve, many will be prone to recurrence, and a small percentage will go on to be chronically disabled. If you’re trying to avoid one of these statistics, you may want to consider adding these three exercises into your daily routine to maintain a health spine.
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing
Yoga. Tai Chi. Qigong. Power lifting. Pilates. It is no coincidence that these time-honored systems put a particular emphasis on the breath and breathing while exercising. Proper diaphragmatic breathing will help strengthen all of your core muscles. Your intrinsic core is comprised of the diaphragm on the top, pelvic floor on the bottom, transverse abdominis muscle (the one that sucks in your stomach), and the low back multifidi. Together, these muscles help increase your intra-abdominal pressure and effectively transfer kinetic energy from the lower to upper half of your body.
When was the last time you saw a child learn how to walk? Being on all fours, or quadruped, is a natural part of the neuro-developmental sequence. Being on all fours helps teach us how to strengthen our abdominals to work with our powerful spinal extensor muscles to maintain a proper curvature, eventually allowing us to partake in bipedal locomotion. Aside from improving core strength, this exercise is excellent for building mind-body awareness of posture.
Try moving slowly from cat to camel, moving one vertebrae at a time, using your deep abdominal muscles to initiate the motion. You’ll find that this is significantly more challenging ( and tiring) than one might think!
Bridging is a wonderful exercise to do after the first two. Now that you know how to breathe while engaging your core, and have an awareness of how to stabilize your spine, you can begin to strengthen your powerful gluteal muscles and train a hip hinge. Start out laying on your back, draw your belly button into your spine. Bend your knees, feet spread shoulder width apart. Squeeze your butt cheeks to lift your hips from the floor, and pull your knees past your toes using your hamstrings. You can practice this motion slowly for reps and sets if you want to practice the motion, or you can hold for 10-30 seconds for a few rounds to train your postural endurance. Bridging is a wonderful way to hit all of the big low back stabilizers, and offers an easily transferable skill (the hip hinge) to daily activities that involve lifting, bending, and sitting/standing.