In recent blog posts and facebook posts we have written about your true inner core, what muscles it consists of and its importance to low back pain and overall health. To quickly recap, your true core consists of your Transverse Abdominus, Multifidus, Diaphragm, and Pelvic Floor muscles (Rectus Abdominus aka the 6-pack doesn't count!) A strong inner unit will stabilize, control, and decompress the spine to allow for better function and pain free movements.
When we last wrote on the core we went over the basic beginner exercises such as planks, bird dog, dead bug, and deep breathing exercises. This post will progress those exercises to the next level for those who are finding the beginner exercises too easy now.
A few key points to consider before moving forward and increasing your core exercise challenge:
1. Are you able to complete hold-type exercises such as planks for longer than 1 minute?
2. With proper form do the exercises seem too easy or not challenging enough?
3. Are you able to successfully perform the exercises without the low back arching or pelvis rotating, can you keep control throughout the movement?
If you said yes to all 3 of these points it's time to spice things up a bit! Below are a few examples of core exercises that will add a bit more challenge to your routine while still keeping in mind that flexion exercises like crunches can be hard on the spine. Also, rotation exercises are great for everyday activities, but challenging on the spine so only try when you feel strong and ready (not suitable for beginners or people with weak cores).
1. Side Plank with Rotation
Prop yourself up into a side plank position with elbow under the shoulder on your forearm. Now rotate the body to turn your belly towards the floor and return back to side lying - repeat. Even while rotating try to keep the spine straight, not letting the hip droop too much.
2. Romanian Twists
Sit on your "sit-bone (ischial tuberosity) with legs held up in the air. Try to keep your legs as still as possible as your twist your upper body to the right and then all the way to the left and repeat back and forth.
3. Half Kneeling Halos
Start in a half kneel position with a light dumbbell, plate, or kettlebell in your hands. In this position take the weight and trace small circles around your head. The key to this exercises is as the weight moves around keep your core, pelvis and body as still and controlled as possible. Try a few rotations clockwise and then counter clockwise. Switch legs as well.
4. Extended Planks
Start in your traditional plank position, stiff as a board, belly not drooping down to the floor and bum not propped up in the air. Now crawl your forearms out a bit farther so the elbows are a bit straighter and no longer positioned directly under your shoulders. You should feel the increased challenge. Again with planks, hold until fatigue and repeat 3-4x.
Remember, if any exercises hurt or you feel uncomfortable with your form it is always best to seek advice from your Physiotherapist, Chiropractor, or Personal Trainer. Enjoy!