What exactly is your ‘core’ and should you strengthen it?

In exercise, we hear a lot about engaging our core. Most people think this means the abdominal area, but it also refers to the muscles in your hips, lower back and pelvis, all of which help you to support your spine. You may worry that back pain is caused, at least partially, by a weak core. This isn’t exactly true – in fact, many people with persistent back pain tense this area of their body in an effort to control their pain, and actually need to learn how to relax this area to find relief.

However, as your core plays a huge part in supporting your spine, it’s important to look after it. Here are our top tips for building a strong core with the goal of relieving back pain. 

  • Use gentle but effective core-strengthening exercises. There’s no need to do twenty sit-ups a day. In fact, this can be very hard on your back. The dead bug position is a great way to start. Lie on your back and bend your legs at a 90 degree angle with your arms extended – done right, this position resembles a bug lying on its back. Hold this position for around five seconds before gently releasing and repeating it for as long as is comfortable. Make sure your lower back is firmly in contact with the ground while holding the position. If you feel strong enough, it’s also worth trying the forearm plank position: prop yourself up on your forearms and the tips of your toes, making sure your abdominal area isn’t dipping down towards the floor. Hold this position for around ten seconds, or as long as you feel comfortable. Many people also find SitFits very beneficial for building core strength – we have these available for purchase in the clinic.


  • Don’t underestimate the power of going for a walk. Making time for a daily stroll of at least half an hour can do wonders for your core and relieve lower back pain. Walk at a steady, brisk pace with your shoulders back.


  • Practice balancing on one leg. To effectively do this without wobbling, you’ll need to engage your core muscles rather than putting all your weight on your standing leg. 


  • Stand up straight. We’ve talked about how poor posture isn’t quite as common as people think, but being able to stand up straight with your stomach muscles comfortably hugging to your midline is a good indicator that your core strength is in good condition. 


  • Don’t get hung up on how it ‘looks’. We often associate having a strong core with six-pack abs, but this doesn’t necessarily mean a relief from back pain or a healthier spine. You’ll know you’re building core strength when you have less lower back pain, you find it easier to do everyday physical activities, you can comfortably sit or stand up straight and you find it easier to balance. 


In the meantime, check out our video all about back exercises to do at home, all of which are great for strengthening your core.



If you’re worried about back pain, book in for a check-up with us. We’re always happy to help. 


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