‘Core strength’ is the strength in the middle portion (core) of your trunk in a standing position. To know more about core strength, we first need to understand where the actual ‘core’ in a human body is and how the ‘core muscles’ is responsible for low back pain.
Most back pain specialists and top spine surgeons in London recommend developing good strength to treat low back pain.
What do you mean by ‘core’ in the term ‘core strength’?
We all know what a core of an Apple means. As we can see in the picture above, the central portion of the Apple from all directions is the main strong bit with the rest of the Apple around it. In the same way, the muscles in the central portion of our body in a standing position (as shown in the picture above) are the core muscles of our body. These muscles hug our spine and form the ‘core’.
Where are your core muscles?
RECTUS ABDOMINIS (RA)
- On your front around your belly button
TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS (TA)
- On your front of your trunk by the sides
INTERNAL & EXTERNAL OBLIQUES (IO)
- On your back and on the side (as shown)
MULTIFIDUS AND ERECTOR SPINAE (MF/ES)
- On your back and in the middle (as shown)
Why are core muscles important in developing ‘core strength’?
As the core muscles are attached directly to the spine, they have a greater control over your spine. These muscles can help you maintain your balance, have a good posture, prevents muscle injuries and low back pain. By training these muscles, you develop a strong core and a good core strength. We will see that your movements will be brisk, you can walk faster, you feel less fatigued, seem to have more energy and achieve more in a day.
What is Core strength?
Core Strength is the power of the core muscles around our spine. The core muscles wrap around our spine. Good strength and power in these muscles helps to keep your spine solid so that the rest of your body like your arms and legs can move easily around it without wobbling. You will feel the strength in our body around your spine during sitting, standing and walking.
Why is Core strength important?
Core strength from your core muscles play a very important part in sports like running, jumping and kicking. In addition, their good function also determines the activities of daily living like sitting, standing, bending, lifting and driving. If your core muscles are weak, it is like performing those actions while standing on a wobble board. Weak core muscles get tired quickly and the spine is at risk of injuries. This can lead to bad posture and low back pain.
How will I know that I have a ‘weak core’?
The most common feature of a weak core is low back pain that is aggravated by any activity. Simple jobs like lifting, pushing, bending and sitting all trigger back pain. A weak core means that your back is not stabilised enough before you perform those functions.
There is less tone and strength in these core muscles and they allow wobbling of the spine when there is any movement of the limbs and trunk. Poor core strength allows the ligaments and muscles around your spine to stretch causing back pain.
Will my posture be affected from a ‘weak core’?
You will appear to slouch all the time as your erect posture is not maintained by these weak core muscles. The core muscle wrap around your spine in your trunk (see image above). Weak core muscles mean that you have to hold your breath all the time during exercise or any strenuous activity to keep your muscles of your trunk working.
These are the signs of a weak core leading to your poor posture.
How does Core strength help your lower back pain?
The core muscles wrap around your spine and if these muscles are strong, it can offer greater stability and core strength to your spine. The core muscles takes off the pressure from your spine. Therefore, your spine is likely to undergo less stress from the bending, lifting and twisting activities in your daily living. Taking the pressure of the spine also means that your spine is not loaded heavily and therefore is likely to undergo less wear and tear (degeneration). There is enough scientific evidence to show that core strength help lower back pain.
Are all Core stability exercises safe?
Not all core stability exercises are safe. Make sure that most of the exercises are done with your spine in a neutral and straight position. Any twisting or bending of your spine during these exercises will cause injuries to the disc and tissues around your spine. Twisting and bending leads to worsening and chronic backpain.
Here are 5 safe Core Training Exercises that you can do to improve your core strength and stability.
1) Pelvic Bridge Exercise:
This trains your Erector Spinae (ES) and Multifidus (MF). Lie on your back. Keep your knees bent so that both your feet are flat on the floor. Place your arms on either side of your body. Slowly lift your pelvis off the floor till it is in line with your knees and shoulder. Squeeze your bum muscles for greater stability and control. Repeat these 15 times.
2) Partial Curls:
This trains your Psoas Major (PM) that is attached to the front and sides of the spine. Lie on your back. Keep your knees bent so that both your feet are flat on the floor. Place your arms on either side of your body. Engage the front of your tummy and slowly lift the head and chest up towards your knee and relax. Repeat these 15 times.
3) Planks to improve Core Strength:
This trains all your core muscles – Erector Spinae (ES), Multifidus (MF), Psoas Major (PM) and Quadratus Lumborum (QL). Lie on your tummy. Then raise on both your elbows and feet. Try to keep your back straight. Hold yourself in this position for at least 30 seconds to 1 minute. This will put into action all the 4 muscles. Repeat these 15 times.
4) Side Planks to improve Core Strength:
This trains your Psoas Major (PM) and Quadratus Lumborum (QL). Lie on the floor and turn to your right side. Raise on your right elbow and lift the pelvis up towards the ceiling. Hold your pelvis up for at least 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat these 15 times. Now turn to the left side and raise on your elbow. Lift the pelvis towards the ceiling. Repeat this 15 times
5) Leg & Arm Raise:
This trains all your core muscles – Erector Spinae (ES), Multifidus (MF), Psoas Major (PM) and Quadratus Lumborum (QL). Lie on your tummy. Raise on your arms and feet. Lift your right arm and left leg. Hold yourself in this position for at least 1 minute. Repeat these 15 times. Repeat these same steps on the other side. Repeat this 15 times.