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6 exercises to strengthen your core and protect from back pain

Nearly 30% of us are reported to have experienced back pain in the last 3 months, and the majority of people are likely to suffer from it at some point during their lives. This is especially worrying when back pain is the leading cause of disability and almost 60% of people with back pain suffer from depression.

While some back pain is caused by serious medical issues such as slipped disk or Sciatica, a large proportion of all back pain is due to a fairly simple root cause: a weak core.

Working to strengthen your core can help reduce or entirely resolve back pain; even if you don't currently have back pain, it's advisable to work on your core regularly to protect yourself from back pain developing. Strong cores have a number of other benefits such as improved posture and better balance - very handy for tricky yoga poses!

This week, we share 6 exercises to do weekly to strengthen your core:

1. Lower back to floor

Start on your back, bent knees, feet on the floor and hands by your side. You should have a neutral core where you are neither pressing the small of your back to the floor, nor having an extreme curve: you should be able to just fit your hand below your lower back). Engage your core and slowly press the small of your back to the floor, then return to the starting position. Complete 3 sets of 30.

2. Bridge

A yoga classic: lie on your back with bent legs, feet on floor hip-width apart. Engage the core and push away from the floor with your feet. Your back should flatten as your hips rise and the point of contact with the floor will move upwards from your buttocks to your upper back. Hold for 30 seconds and release, making contact with the floor one vertebrate at a time. For added difficulty: while in the pose, lift one foot up and straighten the leg so to form a straight line from shoulder to foot.

3. 90-degree leg drops

Lie on your back with you feet off the floor and legs forming a 90-degree angle at the knee. Maintaining the 90-degree angle at the knee, lower one leg until the foot nearly touches the floor. Return to the start position and repeat with the other legs. Complete 10 on each side before relaxing the feet back to the floor (lower one leg at a time when exciting the exercise).

4. Lying arm raises

Lie on your back with bent knees, feet on the floor and hands by your side. Keeping your arms straight, slowly raise them up over your head; stop when you feel your ribs start to shift; return back to the starting position. Repeat 15 times.

5. Plank

Another classic: place your forearms on the floor below your chest, and push away from the floor while maintaining contact between your toes and the floor - your body should be straight from shoulders to ankles. Hold for as long as you can while maintain good posture; complete 3 sets.

6. Crunches

Similar to a sit-up but your lower back should maintain contact with the floor at all times. Place your hands on each side of your head (not behind the head) and move your head down toward your knees; you should feel your abs compress and tighten as they crunch. Complete 3 sets of 20 to start with, increasing the number of reps if this is too easy.

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