Core strengthening is a common exercise refrain these days. Also referred to as spinal stabilization exercises, core strengthening target the abdominal and low back muscles with a variety of exercises. The goal of these exercises is to prevent back injury and/or decrease low back pain.  A strong core acts as a natural back brace decreasing the risk of injury during lifting activities.

Specific muscles targeted during core training include the transversus abdominis, internal and external obliques, quadratus lumborum, and paraspinals including the small multifidi.  Strengthening these muscles decreases back pain from hyperflexibility or instability of the low back.  All of the core muscles should also be stretched to improve muscle balance.

Targeted core exercises include crunches, planks, bridges, and lumbar extensions.  Specific styles of exercise such as yoga, Pilates or plyometrics also incorporate a lot of core strengthening and stabilization exercises into their routines.  When incorporating exercise classes, it is important to find one at the appropriate level.  Beginners are more likely to be injured when jumping into more advanced training programs before they have developed the appropriate flexibility and strength.

Core muscles are often exercised incorrectly. Just like all of the other skeletal muscles exercised, they need a day off. Alternate core strengthening so that there is at least one day of rest between workouts. This allows the muscles to recover and strengthen between sessions. Without appropriate rest days, the muscles will become fatigued and be placed at higher risk for injury.

I recommend that individuals who have been sedentary or ignoring their core start with simple planks and crunches. Once these become easy, then progress to more challenging exercises or start taking classes like yoga to add a challenge and some fun to their workout routine. A strong core has many benefits, and is important for everyone. Start working yours today!

Christopher Burton, MD
Christopher Burton, MD

Christopher Burton, MD is a physician, speaker, coach and author, practicing in Pensacola, FL. He specializes in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, which focuses on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of conditions - particularly those of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems - that may produce temporary or permanent impairment of function. Dr. Burton also provides one-on-one Health & Wellness Coaching for select clients who want to improve their life significantly. In addition to his practice and coaching, he actively lectures on health, nutrition and exercise for healthcare groups, colleges, and businesses, and travels internationally teaching on various topics including the treatment and rehabilitation of athletes.