Core Exercises: Part 1

Local Stabilization System

Muscles that attach directly to your vertebrae (spine).

Main responsibility:  Intervertebral stability and intersegmental stability….

Stabilize the spine!

Additional responsibilities:  Proprioception and postural control

Muscles, include:

Transverse Abdominis, Internal Obliques, Lumbar Multifidus, Diaphragm, Pelvic Floor

How do you engage these muscles?

Place two (2) fingers on your  front hip bone (ASIS, Anterior Superior Iliac Spine) on each side.  Move each hand an inch towards your naval and an inch down towards your toes.  You will now be palpitating your Transverse Abdominis muscle.  You will feel soft tightening under your fingers when you contract this muscle.  To contract, pretend you have a coin on your belly button and pull it towards your spine.  Try to engage this muscle group in different positions and during your activities of daily living (ADLs) for maximum spinal stability.

Image source: NASM

Image source: NASM

 Exercises to Strengthen Core Stabilizers

EASY

Supine Hip Twist on Stability Ball

  • Lie on your back on floor with hips and knees bent to 90 degrees over a stability ball.  Draw in abdominal muscles and maintain throughout movement pattern.  Slowly and with control, rotate knees to one side keeping hips in contact with the floor.  Engage obliques to pull knees back to center position and repeat motion to opposite side.  Perform 10 – 20 repetitions on each side.

Prone Bridging on Elbows (Standard Plank)

  • Lie on your stomach on a floor mat with your forearms/elbows on the mat.  Rise up so that you are resting on your forearms and toes.  Maintain abdominal draw in.  Your back should be completely straight.  Shoulders down, away from your ears.  Squeeze your scapulae (shoulder blades) together.  Maintain a neutral neck position, gazing down at the floor. Hold this position for 15 seconds to 1 minute, progressing in increments of 15 seconds.

Quadruped  Opposite Arm/Leg

  • In a quadruped position (on all fours), maintain a neutral neck with knees bent at 90 degrees. Maintain abdominal draw in throughout entire movement pattern.  Use your hamstrings, gluteal muscles, and low back muscles to lift your leg straight while simultaneously lifting opposite arm.  Think about lengthening your body; how high you lift each leg and arm is not critical. Perform 10 receptions on each side. 

Supine Butt Lift with Arms at Side (Floor Bridge)

  • Lie on your back on a floor mat with hips and knees bent at 90 degrees with feet flat on floor (shoulder-width apart).  Maintain abdominal draw in throughout exercise.  Squeeze your gluteal muscles (butt!) and slowly raise your butt of the mat.  Use  your gluteal muscles and hamstrings until your torso is in line with thighs;  follow the 70/30 rule:  70% gluteal activation and 30% hamstring activation.  Hold for 3 to 5 seconds.  Perform 10 to 20 repetitions.

Abdominal Draw In, Seated on Stability Ball with Marching

  • Begin by sitting on stability ball with your spine straight, knees bent at 90 degrees, and your hands on hips.  Place your feet shoulder-width apart.  Maintain abdominal draw in through exercise.  Slowly raise your right knee into hip flexion, raising foot 1 to 3 inches off floor.  Hold for 3 to 5 seconds, keeping hips level.  Lower knees to starting position.  Repeat on left side.  Perform 10 to 20 repetitions on each side.

MEDIUM

Prone Bridging on Elbows (Standard Plank) with Single Leg Hip Extension

  • Lie on your stomach on a floor mat with your forearms/elbows on mat.  Rise up so that you are resting on your forearms and toes.  Maintain abdominal draw in, a straight back, and neutral neck.  Shoulders down, away from ears.  Squeeze scapulae (shoulder blades) together.  Extend hip, lifting leg/foot upwards (1 to 3 inches) and hold (3 to 5 seconds).  Lift one leg at time, alternating legs.  Perform 10 to 15 repetitions each side.

Quadruped Opposite Arm/Leg with Cuff or Dumbbell Weights

  • Start in a quadruped position (on all fours).  Neutral neck with knees bent at 90 degrees and hands on floor.  Add a cuff weight to your ankles and/or hold a light weight (3 to 5 pounds) in hand.  Keep your shoulders down and engage your hamstrings, gluteal muscles, and low back throughout movement pattern.  Lift and straighten your leg and opposite arm while maintain proper alignment.  Alternate sides. Perform 10 to 20 repetitions on each side.

Supine Bridging on Stability Ball

  • Lie facing upward on a floor mat with knees straight, feet (heels) rest on stability ball, and arms at side.  Maintain abdominal draw in throughout exercise.  Squeeze your gluteal muscles (butt!) and slowly lift your butt off the floor until your torso is in line with thighs.  Hold for 3 to 5 seconds, and slowly lower and return to starting position.  Perform 10 to 20 repetitions.

Abdominal Crunches on Stability Ball

  • Lie on stability ball in supine position with your hips just off the ball.  Thoracic and lumbar spine (upper and lower back) in contact with the ball.  Feet shoulder-width apart and hands across chest or behind head.  Maintain abdominal draw in throughout movement pattern.  Crunch forward and lift your shoulder blades off of ball, pressing low back into ball. Hold at top for 1 to 2 seconds and lower down to starting position.  Perform 10 to 20 repetitions.

DIFFICULT

Quadruped Opposite Arm/Leg on Half Foam Rollers

  • Start in a quadruped position (on all fours).  Place two foam roller halves parallel to each other on floor mat. Place both hands and knees on foam roller halves (round side).  Knees bent at 90 degrees.  Maintain a neutral neck and engage gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and low back.  Lift and straighten your leg and opposite arm.  Alternate sides.  Perform 10 repetitions on each side.

Russian Twist with Medicine Ball, Seated on Stability Ball

  • Seated on stability ball with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a medicine ball in front of your chest.  Maintain abdominal draw in while rotating your torso side to side.  Perform 10 to 20 repetitions each side.

References:

Clark, M. A., Lucett, S.C., & Sutton, B.G. (2012).  NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training4 ed.  p. 209-212. Baltimore, MD:  Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Princeton University Health Services. ” Lumbar/Core Strength and Stability Exercises.”  doi:  http://www.princeton.edu/uhs/pdfs/Lumbar.pdf.  Accessed March 3, 2014.

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About rrluthi

Certified fitness expert with a passion for educating and empowering the 55 and better "chronologically-enriched" population about the benefits of adopting and maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle, preventing injury, and feeling good. Proven strengths applying cutting-edge fitness/wellness concepts and research through roles as a health coach, fitness trainer, and group exercise instructor—in addition to promoting these concepts in a more systematic way through blogging and social media, community outreach, public speaking, corporate wellness program facilitation and senior fitness program support.
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