Strengthen your core and prevent back pain with these core workouts.
A stronger core isn’t just for the visible packs or straighter posture. It can be the difference between pain-free back and the one that aches constantly. It can also safeguard your entire body including your neck, back, and hips and promote a healthy, proper posture.
If you often find yourself with back pain, it may be a sign you need to develop a stronger core.
But strengthening your entire core isn’t done solely with crunches and sit-ups. They are excellent at tirelessly working your front abdominal muscles, but lack the reach to other regions of your core like the obliques and deep abdomen.
They also place pressure on your back and may risk straining your back even more.
Instead, do these 5 best core workouts that’ll actually help bulletproof your back and strengthen your entire body.
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Bridges are a phenomenal strengthening and mobility exercise. For seniors specifically, bridges are especially important, as they force the body into extension and they encourage activation of the glutes.
Bridges are also great because they can be performed anywhere, as long as there is sufficient floor space available.
How to Perform:
- Lie flat on your back, with your knees bent and your feet in contact with the floor.
- Push down through your heels, while squeezing your glute muscles, lifting your back and hips off of the ground.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds then slowly lower back down to the starting position.
- Repeat this pattern for 10-12 repetitions, for 3-4 sets, 2-3 times per week.
2. Side Planks
The obliques are an oft-neglected muscle group. Most people prioritize the six-pack muscles, known as the rectus abdominis. While the rectus is an important muscle, the obliques are equally vital for good health.
This move uses isometric contractions in order to build endurance and strength throughout the core.
How to Perform:
- Start by lying on your left side.
- Tuck your left forearm underneath you.
- At the same time, stack your right foot on top of your left.
- Rise up onto your left forearm and left foot.
- Be sure that your body is in a straight line from the top of your head down to your feet.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, and repeat 4 times on each side per session.
3. Bird Dogs
Bird dogs are a great exercise for improving strength throughout the back and core. This movement engages the multifidi, the glutes, and various other muscles throughout the body.
By performing them in a flowing manner, you can also improve balance and proprioception significantly.
- Start on your hands and knees, with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees right under your hips.
- Next, reach your right arm straight out in front of you as you simultaneously kick your left leg behind you.
- In this position, you should be able to trace a line from your left heel to your right fingertips.
- Hold this pose for 3 seconds, then bring your right elbow to your left knee, near your chest.
- Hold this position for 3 seconds then return to the position described in step number 2.
- Continue to repeat in this manner for 3 sets of 10 reps per session. Be sure to perform this movement on both sides.
4. Prone Snow Angels
Many of the exercises in this list emphasize some of the major muscles in the body. This exercise focuses on some of the more neglected, minor muscles of the back and shoulders. It is a great movement to increase shoulder mobility and stability.
Target Muscles: Low traps, mid traps, various rotator cuff and shoulder muscles, rhomboids
Parameters: Perform 3-5 sets of 10-15 repetitions per session, aiming for fatigue within this rep range. Rest for 30-60 seconds between sets and exercises.
How to Perform
- Lying on your stomach, extend your arms down next to your pockets.
- Lift both hands slightly toward the ceiling and then make an arcing motion above your head, as if you are making a snow angel.
- Without lowering your arms, reverse the arcing motion and repeat this alternating “snow angel” pattern for the desired number of repetitions.
5. Lean Backs
This is a great starter exercise for seniors who are working up to performing crunches or situps. The rectus abdominis works hard during this movement, keeping the trunk stable.
How to Perform:
- Start by sitting on the floor, with your knees slightly bent and your back straight.
- Cross your arms over your chest and lean back as far as you can without falling backward.
- Return to the starting position by contracting your rectus abdominis and sitting up.
- Complete 10-12 repetitions per set, 2-4 sets per session, and 2-3 sessions per week.
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