5 Great Core Exercises to Build Strength and Reduce Back Pain
By Scott A. Jansen
It’s critical to have core strength if you want longevity and reduction of the potential chance of a back injury. There’s a right way and wrong way to accomplish this goal. However, not all core exercises are created equal. That’s why I created this list of 5 exercises to help you get stronger and healthier.
Throughout my career, I’ve worked with countless clients that have back pain either from a previous injury or weakness and muscular imbalance. I get asked by clients weekly how to get a “6 pack” or “Washboard Abs” and constantly see that phrase in magazines and social media articles. Unfortunately, your Rectus Abdominus or “6 Pack” isn’t the only muscle in your core and can be trained improperly. Don’t overly conduct crunch type movements drawing your Rectus Abdominus into flexion which leaves your back imbalanced. Try these movements instead as they work your whole core in functional movement patterns and will build strength.
The Palloff Press trains your core to resist rotation. Anti-rotation is critical for the stability of the Obliques, Transverse Abdominus, Rectus Abdominus and lumbar spine.
- Stand with your feet wider than hip width and position your body perpendicular to a cable machine.
- Grasp the cable handle with both hands directly in front of your chest.
- Keeping your belly button pulled tight toward your spine, extend your arms in front of your chest.
- Bring your hands back to your chest to return to the starting position
2. Alternating Hand Release Plank
The Plank is the standard in core strengthening. This version adds difficulty by alternating hands and requiring more stability from your core.
- Assume a standard Plank position with your elbows under your shoulders, chin tucked and back straight.
- Release one hand either out in front or reach and tap the opposing shoulder or elbow, then alternate hands
Hanging Leg Raises requires your core to stabilize your body while improving grip strength and increased shoulder mobility.
- Hold onto a bar as if performing a Pull-Up with your arms and legs straight.
- Keeping your core tight, bring your legs up until they’re parallel to the ground.
- Slowly lower your legs to the starting position.
- Do your best to avoid rocking back and forth.
- You can bend your knees instead of raising legs straight out to modify to start.
This combines a Plank and Side Plank, forcing your core muscles to brace during changing positions, making it challenging for both your abs and obliques.
- Lie on your side with your bottom elbow on the ground underneath your shoulder and your forearm perpendicular to your body.
- Position your feet on top of each other or stagger them. Raise your top arm vertically to form a “T” with your upper body.
- Drive your hips up to form a straight line with your body from head to toe. Tighten your abs, glutes, and quads.
- Keeping your core tight, rotate your torso and place your opposite elbow on the ground to assume a Side Plank position on your opposite side.
- Continue slowly rolling side to side.
Farmers Walks are great movements for several reasons, but foremost core development. A unilateral load makes your core stabilize the torso and upper body while being pulled to one side.
- Hold a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell with one hand.
- Keep your core tight and back flat. Avoid arching through your lower back.
- Walk slowly for a specified distance or duration. Switch sides as you return to the starting point.
Core strengthening exercises should be included in each workout focusing on a complete integrated health. Implement these 5 movements today. Reach out to a trainer on staff or me personally to help you learn good form for these exercises.
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Stay Healthy and Active,
Scott A. Jansen
Magnuson Athletic Club/ Fitness Manager