Core exercises have been the buzz word for well over a decade now and there’s good reason for this. They help to stabilise your lumbar spine and keep you free of back pain.
To find out more on why go the end of of this post. In the meantime here are some to be getting on with in increasing order of difficulty.
1. Using a wobble cushion or gym ball to sit.
This exercise makes you engage your core muscles as you balance on the slightly unstable surface. It is suitable for all ages and abilities if using the cushion.
You can progress to the ball (if you have room for one). Word of warning; small children like to bounce them around.
2. Quadruped Knee lifts.
Go onto all fours keeping your low back in a neutral position (not arched up or down too much, somewhere in between). Then very carefully lift your knees slightly off the floor by tensing your lower stomach muscles as shown below. Hold for anywhere between 5-30secs and repeat. The number of reps is up to you but it is best to work until you feel that the muscles are getting tense and a little tired. Progress this number steadily to your goal.
3. Half Plank:
This is basically a plank which is detailed below, but you can either do it on your knees or against a worktop, desk, sofa or bed. The lower you go the harder it is. You can rest on your elbows or straight arms, it’s up to you. The important thing is that it should not be straining your low back.
4. Dead Bug: Lie on your back with your arms and legs above you like a dried out bug! Have your knees bent. Slowly while tensing your stomach muscles lower an arm and opposite leg. Keep control of your core, make sure you keep hips and pelvis level and do not let the lower back arch more. If you feel you can’t stabilise then stop before that point and work the exercise up to there. Over time you will get better at this and be able to go further. Alternate until you feel you’ve done enough.
5. Full Plank:
Lie face down on the floor and keeping your body in line push up onto either your straight arms or bent elbows. Keep looking down with your chin held into your neck in a neutral position and your neck elongated. You should feel a slight stretch at the back of the neck.
Hold this position for however long you feel comfortable with. You may want to do lots of short holds or go for the endurance one. I would suggest somewhere in between rather than trying to break the world record which at time of writing this, was an incredible 8 hours plus.
5. Plank with alternate leg raises.
As above but this time you lift one of your legs off the floor. Make sure you keep your pelvis and hips level.
6: Plank on a wobbly surface. Such as a wobble cushion / board or gym ball.
These are enough to be getting on with but you can progress to doing standing bodyweight exercises such as squats or weights on a wobbly surface. This is probably only suitable for athletes or show offs.
Imagine trying to bend a barrel… It’s impossible. Now imagine a flexible egg timer. It is inherently weak at it’s narrowest point…easy peasy.
Your spine is like this too. In order to have flexibility at the low back and neck you have a column of bones. The pelvis and rib cage are different and go all the way round. So they are a lot less mobile. Take away the muscles form the abdomen and low back and you will have a floppy but tough structure. Add in the back muscles and hip flexors and these act as guys, similar to those supporting a flag pole. That helps stability but it is still vulnerable to big loads. Imagine now placing that pole in wall of a circular large wrapper that tenses and shortens. Now you have stability and the pole won’t move much even with large loads.
This is effectively what your abdominal muscles do. They spread forces around the body and help the lumbar supporting muscles to move the spine in a controlled way. The stronger the muscles the longer you can support. Weak muscles result in increased movement of the low back joints and the increased chances of developing injuries and subsequent arthritis as the spine lays down bony spurs to stabilise itself.
In August our amazing Olympic team brought home life time best performances and medals galore. The joy and delight on their faces was moving and something you can share to an extent by joining the para-olympic athletes as they inspire even more through their heroism in the face of adversity.
The common theme from the Rio games is one of inspiring the next generation to compete, but what about the current and former generation? Yes that’s us lot, who have probably been mainly sat on the sofa while watching, possibly with a glass of wine and a few crisps and nibbles. Well, we all need a break from the usual bad news don’t we?
But why not participate yourself next time you settle down to watch some sport. You could do a stretching routine or even some floor exercises and feel the burn with those on the screen. I’ve been doing it for F1 for years as it stops me falling asleep, even on the highlights program!
If that seems a little too much there are exercises you could do while barely leaving the sofa. Here are a few to help you.
We all get up and down from chairs regularly through the day. How many of do so with a groan due to back pain? Following this simple back pain exercise will help strengthen your thighs, Buttocks and spine. The end result stable and stronger low back, hips and knees.
After a break from exercise it is easy to get carried away and bite off more than you can chew. If you don’t take a sensible controlled view you will be more likely to get injured. So here are a few steps to consider when you restart……
Skiing and boarding involves prolonged periods of hip and knee flexion. This involves working the Gluteal muscles, hip adductors, quads and foot muscles hard to help stabilise and control knee and hip flexion. If you want to be able to ski a whole run and keep doing that all day for a week then you’ll need to start these exercises if you haven’t already.
1. Everyone knows the sitting on a wall exercise but to improve function you need to go a step further and squat with 60 degree knee bend and hold this position without a wall. To protect the knee push the knees out a little.
2. A progression of this is the one leg squat. Make sure you bend fully at the hip and not the back. Your bottom should move backwards rather than the knee moving forwards, your spine should stay locked out. It is fine to touch a wall for balance but move on to free standing if possible. By now you will be getting good hip strength and the muscles at the inside of the thigh will be stabilising the knee well.
3.A variation of this is the running man. Simply squat on one leg and move your arms as if running while staying on one foot. So you are doing repeat squats but stabilising with arm movements as if running.
4. If you want to get into the deep powder or power down the pistes then the next exercise is great for training explosive power. Lateral Bounds will give you the bounce you need to transfer your weight all day long. Simply jump forwards and sideways while springing in big steps. Use your swinging arms to stabilise. You’ll need a lot of room for this one so it’s really best done outside or at a gym with a running track.
Start on week one with the static squats, on week 2 add the dynamic squats, then week 3 one leg and finally if fit and strong the bounding in week 4. Do every other day to allow time for recovery. Stretch after the exercises.