When we think about exercises to strengthen the core, we often think about exercises like crunches or sit-ups. While those popular options can help to improve your core strength, they can sometimes be difficult or painful for people with back issues, or those who have trouble laying flat on their backs.
Exercises like crunches or sit-ups also do not cover all the bases, but rather they focus on just one group of muscles that makes up your core. So by only performing exercises that focus on improving the strength of your abdominals, you are potentially ignoring other muscle groups which are just as important.
What Makes Up The Core?
Your core is made up of several groups of muscles that work together to help stabilize and support your spine. Think of your abs as the front of your core, your back muscles as the back, your pelvic floor muscles as the bottom, and your diaphragm as the top. All these muscles work together to act as a corset and support your spine and internal organs.
Why Do I Need A Strong Core?
Your core muscles provide stability and support to your body, especially to your spine. They also help to protect your back from excessive loads. You need a strong core to maintain good upright posture, to stay balanced on your feet, and to help coordinate smooth and powerful movements, like lifting and carrying.
When you have a weak core, you are more prone to issues like back pain, poor posture, and bad balance. You can also have difficulty picking up and moving heavy things, placing yourself at risk for injury.
How Can I Strengthen My Core?
There are so many different ways to strengthen your core, and this month I'm going to focus on highlighting the difference between static and dynamic strengthening.
When you are focusing static exercises, you are targeting your core stability. During this type of strengthening activities, your core does not move, but rather you are moving your arms and legs or using your body weight as resistance while not moving your trunk (think plank).
When you focus on dynamic strengthening, you are actively moving your core during the strengthening activity (think crunches).
If your core is very weak, it is often easier to start with static activities. The goal is to strengthen you core and then progress to dynamic activities. A well rounded routine will have a combination of both types.
It’s also important to exercise in many different positions including laying on your back and your belly, sitting, standing, and on your hands and knees. Again, a good routine will work on strengthening your core in multiple positions, not just one.
As Physical Therapists, we especially love to strengthen your core on your hands and knees. This position is incredibly beneficial for our bodies for many reasons. First, it helps us utilize our core muscles more effectively. Second, it unloads or decompresses our spine, which is typically loaded and compressing throughout the day because we are often in an upright position such as sitting or standing.
For these reasons we've chosen this particular exercise this month. Check out Dr. Kim's exercise of the month in our newsletter or YouTube channel to learn a progression of 3 exercises to start getting that stronger core.
Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ maximize their independence and fitness, so they can continue to enjoy a full and active life.