Strengthening Your Core For A Healthy Back, Spine & Life

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It’s amazing how much we use our core in our everyday life; from the very moment we wake up to the time we get to bed. We use it even more than our hands or legs! The functions of our core do not even stop here; it plays a major part in protecting our internal organs and spine.

With such a burden to bear (no pun intended!), we think that our core deserves some care of its own, too. It doesn’t have to take long, or be hard; some minimal ‘maintenance work’ is enough for most of us, but we shall get to that later.

For now, let’s see some of the benefits of building a strong core.

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Benefits
Everyday Life – We mentioned this earlier, but let’s go a little bit deeper. The moment you wake up, you use your core. Picking something up from the floor? Your core is at work! Standing? Impossible without your core. Actually sitting is, too! You might be thinking that you already do these things, but some people can’t, or they experience a lot of pain when they try. You can prevent that from happening to you by taking care of your core starting today.

Physical Activities – You use your core in every sport you can think of (including chess!). Whether you are into golf, tennis, or swimming, your core muscles are at work. A strong core not only helps you perform better at those physical activities, but it also aids in injury prevention, especially when it comes to the lower back and the spine.

Rear view of a young man holding his back in pain, isolated on wGood Posture – Nothing projects confidence like good posture. That’s not all a good posture is for, though. Due to their nature and gravity, bad postures tend to worsen over time. Weak core muscles are in most cases, a direct cause of bad posture.

Healthy Lower Back – According to an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1994, 31 million Americans experience lower back pain at any given time. And that was 20 years ago! Lower back pain is also the #1 cause of disability worldwide, and most cases of it are not due to a disease or serious condition. Strengthening your core promotes a healthy lower back.

Some Basic Anatomy
Giving a full-blown anatomy lecture is beyond the scope of this post (and it’s also boring!). But with that said, we feel that it’s good to have an idea of what we are actually talking about when we say the word core.

Contrary to what many people think, your core is more than just your abs. Your abdominal muscles are actually themselves divided into different muscles, and they are all just part of your core.

Muscles of the core:

  • Rectus abdominis (the 6-pack; it helps you bend forward, and laterally)
  • Internal & external obliques (they help you rotate/twist left and right, and bend laterally)
  • Transversus abdominis (they help compress the ribs and viscera, providing thoracic and pelvic stability)
  • Erector spinae (they help you stand straight and bend backwards)
  • Multifidi (they help with spinal stability and protect against spinal joint degeneration)

The erector spinae and multifidi are basically “back muscles”.

Again, we can go a lot deeper than that, but we feel that this is more than enough for our purpose.

300bigExercises
Depending on your current workout, you may or may not need core-specific exercises to strengthen your core. For example in The Original 300 Workout we shared, only a minimal amount of extra core-specific work is needed, as most of the exercises in the workout already work towards building the core already (actually all of them do!).

Almost all bodyweight exercises (pull-ups, push-ups, dips, rows, etc.), when performed correctly, involve the core to an appreciable extent. So do exercises like the squats and deadlifts. If you already incorporate these in your routine, you may just be needing a single set of 1 or 2 core exercises, like the planks and back bridges (the half or short ones, not the full).

However, if you are mostly sedentary and do exercises that do not hit your core properly, you may need to dedicate a few minutes everyday to care for your core muscles.

Here are a few exercises that we’ve handpicked for you:
Planks – Planks are underrated. They are one of the best ab and core exercises ever. This exercise is performed with a neutral spine, so it can be performed by most people who have a back injury as well.

Side Planks – Side planks are a variation of the planks. It targets more of the oblique muscles. Perform these on both sides!

Back Bridges – You don’t have to do the full back bridge to get its benefits. You can also perform its “half” or “short” version.

They seem easy and not too fancy, but wait till you try them! We’ve picked these exercises over sit-ups and crunches because of the debates surrounding these 2 exercises concerning their negative impact on the lower back. Plus, these 3 exercises can be performed by almost anyone, even if they’ve had an injury in the past. And they hit all the muscles we’ve covered in our little anatomy section!

If you spend just 2 minutes every morning on each of these exercises, you will be literally build a stronger and healthier core in less than 10 minutes a day!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this post. See you in the next one (hopefully with a stronger core!)!

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