Talking Core Stability Exercises with a Spine Specialist

In the last few blogs, we have had the chance go over what Core Stability means.  We have also been able to discuss the importance of the “Neutral Spine” position and why it is important.  Today, I would like give you some specific exercises which could be a part of any person’s “Core Strengthening” program.

When thinking about setting up a “Core Stability” program, I like to break things down into themes for people.  The research says that exercise programs must include training for different muscle groups in order for them to be effective in protecting the spine and avoiding injury in all different planes of motion.  We can’t just focus on training specific muscles in isolation.  We have to use them together in functional pairings.

We have learned recently that exercise programs with the focus of decreasing pain and improving core strength must include exercises for the following muscle groups which protect us from outside forces in all different planes of movement: Abdominal Muscles, Back Extensor Muscles, and the Lateral Trunk Musculature.

Here are a few exercises for each group of core muscles:

  • Abdominals – Now that you know that your back must stay straight, there are many “classic” abdominal exercises which are not supported by the literature at this point.  Full sit-ups are out… unless you can complete a sit-up with your back completely straight.  Curl-ups are in.  Leg lifts are good, unless you allow your low back to arch.  You can also try doing “V” Sits which I have taken from the Pilates realm.  All are great way to challenge your abdominals while keeping your back straight.
Curl-Up

Curl-Up

  • Back Extensors – There are also many “classic” exercises for your back muscles which are also not being supported by much of the literature right now. “Roman Chair” exercises which allow the back to bend back and forth have not been found to be safe for the spine.  Bridges and exercises in the “hands-and-knees” position have been found to be much more gentle on the spine and create the same amount of back extensor strength.  Dead lifts, with perfect form, have also been found to be very beneficial.  Any exercise, for that matter, in the hinged position is a good idea (ex: hinged over rows, hinged reverse pec flies, hinged triceps, etc).

    Bridge

    Bridge

  • Lateral Trunk Musculature – This is a muscle group that many people actually miss training in their Core Stability Programs.  The oblique muscles would be in this group.  Many people do oblique exercises by twisting their spines doing crunches.  One of the best ways to challenge the muscles on the side of your trunk is in a side plank position and hold the position.  Another way would be to use the TRX and do some rotation movements with one arm overhead and the other at the side.  You could also try doing leg lifts with an alternate unilateral pec fly.
Side Plank

Side Plank

This will hopefully get you started with your program.  If you have any questions, or would like to add more variability to your exercises, talk to a trainer and they can get you ever further with your program.

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Diana grew up in a small suburb north of Boston. She received her clinical doctorate degree in Physical Therapy at Boston University in 2006. Diana started practicing as a physical therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital. While at MGH, she developed a specialty in the evaluation and treatment of complex lumbopelvic dysfunction. Diana is currently practicing at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston where she is the Orthopedic Clinical Supervisor of the Spine program. She is presently a Boston resident and her interests outside physical therapy include cooking, walking on the Esplanade, and international travel.

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