The area of the body commonly referred to as the core is your midsection. The core of the body is broadly considered to be the torso. The core is your center of gravity and where all body movements begin. The core includes all of your muscles in that area including the front, back, and sides. These muscles help stabilize the entire body. Functional movements such as pushing, pulling, bending, and twisting depend on the torso. People often mistake exercising the core to mean only working your abdominal muscles. Core exercises also strengthen your hips, back, and all muscles in the midsection of the body. Not developing your core muscles can increase your chances of injury.
At a Communities in Motion event in San Diego led by orthopaedic surgeons, Dr. Afshin Razi discussed the importance of core muscles, and provided three simple exercises that can help strengthen your core muscles to minimize back injuries:
- Planks. Lie face down with your forearms on the floor and your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Keep your feet flexed with the bottoms of your toes on the floor. Clasp your hands in front of your face, so your forearms make an inverted “V”. Rise up on your toes so that only your forearms and toes touch the floor – your body should hover a few inches off the floor in a straight line from shoulders to feet. Draw your navel toward your spine and tighten your buttocks. Look at the floor to keep your head in neutral position and breathe normally. Hold for at least 10 seconds and lower yourself back to the floor.
- Modified sit-ups (also known as crunches). Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Place your hands so your thumbs are behind your ears. Do not weave your fingers together. Hold your elbows out to the sides. Tilt your chin slightly towards your chest. Gently pull your abdominals inward and curl your upper body forward until your shoulder blades lift off the floor. Hold for a moment at the top of the movement and then lower slowly back down. Repeat for 15 to 20 repetitions.
- Bird-dog. Get on your hands and knees by placing your hands palm down on the floor under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips. Keep your head, neck, and back straight and parallel to the floor. Raise your right arm and reach it forward as you extend your left leg backwards until straight. Hold for 1 second. Slowly bring your arm and leg back to the floor and repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Do up to three sets of 6 to 12 repetitions on each side. As you gain core muscle, increase the number of repetitions in each set.
Are you ready to get started? Tips on starting an exercise program from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00416