Have you been suffering from persistent pain? Are you trying to get your body vacation-ready? Do you want to shake the sluggish feeling that’s been dragging you down? Whatever the case may be, core exercises can help. These simple and classic techniques have been practiced by athletes for years and are a great way to quickly increase your body’s core strength.
If you are recovering from an injury or beginning these core strength exercises for the first time, it would be in your best interest to consult with a physical therapist beforehand. Engaging in strenuous exercise can do wonders for your body, but it can also do harm if your body is not ready for it. A physical therapist can also advise you on correct techniques, providing you with the appropriate adjustments for safely performing these exercises.
Once you’ve received the go-ahead from your PT, you can begin performing the exercises listed below. For the best results, begin by completing these exercises 5 times each. As your core strength increases, your repetitions will be able to increase, as well. Consult with your physical therapist before you increase your repetitions to the 15-25 range.
The plank is one of the most efficient core strengthening exercises used by athletes everywhere. It is a great way to warm up by engaging your core muscles: the internal and external obliques, the hip flexors, the rectus abdominis, the transversus abdominis, the erector spinae, and multifidus.
- Place your forearms on the ground with your elbows directly below your shoulders. Make sure your forearms are parallel to one another, at about a shoulder-width distance apart.
- Lift yourself into a horizontal position by balancing yourself on your forearms and toes, making sure to squeeze your glutes to allow extra support for your body.
- Utilize your leg strength in order to keep yourself upright. The position should look similar to a pushup, except you’ll be balancing yourself on your forearms instead of your hands.
- Maintain your neck and spine neutrality by looking at a spot approximately one foot beyond your hands.
- Stay in this position for as long as possible, without compromising your form. Aim for 15-60 seconds per rep, depending on your level of physical ability. Make sure to take slow breaths the entire time.
2. Abdominal Crunch
This exercise can feel intense if you’ve been on a workout hiatus. However, it is an exceptionally successful exercise for increasing core strength and endurance.
- Lie down on your back with your feet placed flat on a wall. Make sure your hips and knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Engage your abdominal muscles and glutes by squeezing them. Place your arms across your chest, rather than behind your head, in order to avoid neck strain.
- Lift your head and shoulders off the ground. Hold for three deep breaths.
- Resume your starting position and repeat.
3. Bicycle Crunch
The bicycle crunch is one of the most effective ways to strengthen your rectus abdominis and obliques. Much like the abdominal crunch, this one may feel sore if you haven’t exercised in a while, so start off slow.
- Lie down with your back flat on the ground. Place your hands behind your head, with fingers intertwined. Make sure you do not pull on your neck.
- Raise your knees to a 45-degree angle in the air. Slowly start making a “pedaling” motion, as if you are riding a bike.
- As you “pedal,” bring your elbows to your knees, so that your right elbow meets your left knee and your left elbow meets your right knee.
- Repeat without sacrificing your form or losing your breath.
4. Bridge Exercise
Bridge exercises help to strengthen and stretch your abs, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles. It is also a common rehabilitation exercise for core improvement and spinal stabilization.
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
- Place your arms flat near your sides.
- Engage your abs and glutes by squeezing them. Slowly lift your hips to create a straight line between your knees and shoulders.
- Hold the position for 15-60 seconds per rep, depending on your level of physical ability. Or, you can hold until you begin to lose control of your body.
- To increase intensity, lift your feet so that only your toes are touching the ground. Afterward, you can alternate so that only your heels are on the ground.
Get started on a core-focused treatment plan today!
It is normal to anticipate a few challenges before beginning new core strength exercises. You’ll be working out muscles that have remained stagnant for an extended period of time. It is perfectly fine (and recommended!) to start off slow, as long as you consistently continue your exercises.
For more information and insight on how core strength can benefit you, contact our office today. One of our experienced physical therapists can provide a full physical therapy evaluation and exercise plan for your specific needs!