Core Strengthening

Hello Fitness Followers!

This week’s blog features the misadventures of my husband Bob and how he overcame his recurrent back problems with three core exercises he learned in physical therapy. He was even gracious enough to star in the demonstration videos, included below. What a sport! Here he is sitting on an exercise ball, his sometime desk chair.




Bob’s back problem, exacerbated by too much desk-sitting, was Sciatica, which refers to pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the leg as a result of injury to or pressure on the sciatic nerve, shown here:
The value of core strengthening exercises is that they build up muscle groups that support the back, and take stresses off the lumbar vertebrae that come from standing or sitting for long periods—as happens with a desk job. Included in the core muscle group are the abdominals, the gluteus muscles, and the pelvic floor, or pelvic platform muscles. Keep these muscles tight as you do the following exercises.

This picture shows the core muscle groups that you should tighten when doing core strengthening exercises. Missing from this diagram are the pelvic platform muscles, which are the muscles you use to control bladder flow (urination).




So, give these three exercises a try, at least twice a week, and see if it helps your back.

  1.  Side plank.      Lie on your left side, shoulder in line with your elbow. Weight is on the forearm, not elbow. Keep legs fairly straight, with a little bit of bend in knees. Tighten the glutes, abdominal muscles, and pelvic base muscles and, keeping body alignment straight (no leaning back or forward), lift hips off the floor and hold for a count of 6 full seconds (see video). Repetitions: 5 on each side in a descending ladder (5, then 4, 3, 2, 1).
  2. Abdominal crunch.     place your hands behind the small of your back, one on top of the other and lie on your back, with one knee bent, foot flat on the floor, and the other leg straight out. Keep your chin down, so head is in line with your back. Tighten the core muscles and, keeping your back and head straight, raise up from the waist so shoulders are about 10 inches off the ground. Hold for 6 seconds, then lower back down. Reverse your legs and repeat the movement for a count of 6. Repetitions: start with 5 crunches, alternating the raised leg. Continue in a descending ladder of crunches: 4 alternating, then 3, 2, 1.
  3. Bird dog.     Start on all fours, with your knees on a platform edge (like the edge of a firm mattress). Tighten the core muscles again, then extend one arm straight out while you extend the opposite leg back, not arching your back (so leg may go slightly below the exercise plane). Hold for 6 seconds, the come back to all fours. Keeping the core muscles tight, extend the other arm and the opposite leg. Repetitions: Descending ladder: 6 on each side alternating, then 5, 4…etc.)

Be good to your core!

Keep moving, Jen Katt


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