When we’re talking about the core, we’re not just discussing the external abdominal muscles. In terms of spine health, those are the least important.
Many people dream of having the perfect abs, but they have a primarily cosmetic value. The core that serves your spine health is not flashy, but it’s the key to the health of your spine and your overall state of health.
Let’s look at some physical therapy exercises for core stabilization that you can do, instead of those crunches – which really aren’t that great for your spine, in truth.
The transverse abdominus
The power behind the throne (those six-pack abs) is this muscle. Located directly behind the superficial abdominal muscles is the TrA. Many people find it difficult to engage, so let’s start by figuring out how to do that.
Lying on your back, pull your abdominal muscles up and back into your spine. Think of pulling your belly button up toward your chest and then, inward. This is the muscle you need to work. It’s one of the most important muscles of the core in terms of protecting your spine from injury.
Planking is one of the most effective ways to work your TrA. There’s a lot said on the internet about planking, so you’ve no doubt heard of it, if you’re not already a practitioner. If you’ve never tried to execute this move, read on.
The plank not only works your core. It strengthens your arms, shoulders, back and legs. I always tell people new to this exercise to use the elbows to begin with.
Lying on your stomach, come up on your elbows, clasping your hands in front of you. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders. Next, come up on your toes, pushing them into the surface you’re lying on, while pushing the heels back.
As you do so, pull your stomach up and into your spine, while keeping your body in a straight line from shoulders to heels. Tighten your buttocks to stabilize yourself. You should be looking down at a spot between your forearms.
Build up your strength until you can hold a plank for 2 minutes. As you build, always check your technique to make sure you’re not doing a “fake plank”. Those won’t help at all.
Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet directly under your knees, raise your buttocks off the floor until they’re in line with your knees. As the movement’s apex, tighten your TrA, as described above. Hold this for 10 seconds and repeat as many times as you can. Build your repetitions up to 20, holding for a count of 10 each time.
For my money, these two exercises are the most effective and time-efficient you can possibly do for your core. Regularly prescribed by physical therapists, they’re also safe, but always check your technique. If you’re not sure, check in with one of the physical therapists at Back & Body Medical.
If you’re interested in more physical therapy exercises for core stabilization, contact us.