Four Core Strengthening Exercises to Help Minimize Back Pain

Almost every adult in the U.S. suffers from moderate to severe back pain at some point in their lives. But did you know that most back pain is preventable? It’s true. When you maintain good posture and keep a strong core (the muscles that support your spine and torso), only minor spinal adjustments are required to keep your back in tip-top shape– and pain-free.

4 Exercises to Strengthen the Core

So how do you strengthen your core? It’s easy. All that is required is regular completion of core exercises. Even just 10 minutes a day can make a dramatic difference and minimize your pain. The following are my four favorite core-strengthening exercises that you can do to start your day off right and prevent back pain all day long. None of these require equipment, and you don’t even have to be in your athletic prime to start experiencing benefits from these exercises right away. Read how to do them below (or just watch our video at the end!).

 

Crunches

crunches, core strengthening exerciseCrunches are an easy exercise that works your abdominals and strengthens your lower back. Crunches are especially great because you can make them as easy or as difficult as you want. Standard crunches will work your core fine, but when you are looking for an extra challenge, you can start holding your legs above the ground as you do them to work your abs that much harder.

To do crunches, you should:

  • Lie flat on your back, bending your knees to allow the bottom of your feet to lie flat against the floor about a hip length apart.
  • Tighten the muscles in your lower back, as if pulling those muscles together towards your belly button to engage your abdominal mus
  • cles.
  • Lightly place your arms across your chest in an “x” shape and tilt your chin towards your chest. Keep your chin at least 3-4 inches from actually touching the chest.
  • Roll your shoulders off the floor, lifting your back about four inches from the floor.
  • You do not want to move the head towards your knees, but rather straight up off the ground. Make sure to keep your lower back tight and flat against the floor while you perform this step.
  • Hold this position at the top for a few seconds, and then slowly reverse the process, lowering your head back to the ground.
  • Repeat 10-15 times before resting, and then repeat the entire process as many times as you wish.

 

Leg Raises

Leg raises also help you strengthen your abs, but they focus even more on the lower abdominals. Although leg raises may look easy, they still pack a punch when it comes to strengthening your core.

To do leg raises, you should:

  • Lie flat on your back, bending your left knee to allow the bottom of your foot to lie flat against the floor also. Keep your right leg straight out in front of you with the back of your heel touching the ground.
  • Tighten the muscles in your lower back, as if pulling those muscles together towards your belly button to engage your abdominal muscles.
  • Place your hands in the small of your back underneath you for added support.
    Slowly lift your right leg to a 90-degree angle.
  • If you cannot get your leg into a 90-degree angle when you are first starting out, that’s ok, but make sure to reach at least 45 degrees each lift.
  • Hold the position for a few seconds, and then lower your leg back to the ground.
  • Repeat 10-15 times before resting.
  • Lower your left leg straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee so that the bottom of your foot can lie flat against the floor.
  • Repeat the exercise 10-15 times, this time lifting your left leg, before resting.
    Repeat the entire exercise as many times as you wish.

 

Hyperextensions

hyperextensions, core strengthening exerciseHyperextensions help develop your lats and your lower back. Hyperextensions also allow for a progressive development towards more challenging exercises that involve lifting your arms and legs.

To do hyperextensions, you should:

  • Lay flat on your stomach. Keep your neck aligned. Do not twist your head to either side.
  • Place your hands lightly on the back of each side of your head.
    Tighten the muscles in your lower back, as if pulling those muscles together towards your belly button.
  • Keep your legs and feet pressed firmly against the ground.
  • Use your core muscles to pull your head straight off the ground.
  • You should not feel as if you are pulling up with your head, but rather as if you are pushing from your lower back to arch up.
  • Hold yourself at least five inches off the floor for several seconds before slowly lowering yourself down on the mat.
  • Repeat 10-15 times before resting, and then repeat the entire process as many times as you wish.
  • Once you have mastered this type of hyperextension, you can attempt lifting your legs in tandem off the ground at the same time as lifting your head, so that this exercise challenges you even more.

 

Planks

The most challenging core-strengthening exercise for many people is the plank. Planks work your entire core, and they allow you to develop all the muscles that can help fight back pain.

To do planks, you should:

  • Get on your hands and knees with your elbows aligned below the shoulders, arms parallel to the body about a shoulder-width apart, and your forearms and hands flat on the ground, straight in front of you.
  • Raise your body and send your feet straight out behind you, so that your weight is resting on your forearms and the balls of your feet with your toes curled under.
  • Make sure to align your neck, spine, buttocks, and legs in a single, straight line. Don’t give into the temptation to raise your buttocks into the air.
  • Squeeze your core and your glutes inwards to hold yourself. Be careful not to lock your knees or strain your back.
  • Hold this position for at least 20-30 seconds. As you strengthen your core, you will be able to hold it for longer.

More Guidance to Help You Strengthen Your Core

Each of these exercises focuses on strengthening a different part of your body, and together, they can prove a formidable way to fight back pain you may be currently experiencing or even prevent it from happening altogether.

Not sure exactly how to do these exercises properly? I demonstrate each of these exercises in the video below. I also go more in-depth on some other exercises that you can do to strengthen your core, once you’ve mastered these key four. Watch to learn the best ways to strengthen your core at home now, and start practicing them every day. You may be surprised at just how much of a difference a few exercises can make in the battle against back pain.

 

*Please remember that before starting a new exercise regimen, it may be prudent to consult a healthcare professional to make sure you are healthy enough. Also, be careful to observe proper form when doing any exercise in this video, as the wrong motion could exacerbate your back pain rather than help heal it.