When I was fifteen years old, I had an accident while deer hunting and fell roughly 25 feet out of a tree stand. Luckily, I survived, but from the fall I suffered a fractured vertebra in my lower back as well as damage to all of the muscles in that area. The pain from this injury was severe and followed me into adulthood. After many years, I just accepted this discomfort as a part of my life and something I would have to live with.
When I got into my 30’s I had a life transformation when I finally discovered the benefits of healthy eating and exercise. I shed about 50 pounds of body fat and adopted a daily exercise routine that incorporated strength training, cardiovascular training, yoga and core work. I remember one day when it occurred to me, “Hey! My back doesn’t hurt!” As it turns out, not having the extra weight around my midsection along with strengthening my core alleviated the strain on my lower back and all but eliminated the pain. It turns out, all I needed to do was take care of my core.
Core work is now well recognized in the fitness world as being crucial to a well-maintained body. I define the core as any muscle group located between the chest and the upper thighs including the front, sides and back of the body. Muscles located within the torso, such as the diaphragm, that assist in breathing are also a part of the core. These muscles stabilize the body and support the upper and lower limbs during exercise and physical activity as well as during regular everyday movements.
I have worked with many clients over the years that have experienced the same turnaround that I did – they started taking care of their core and all of a sudden, many chronic conditions that they were experiencing disappeared. Also, I have seen many athletes improve their performance by increasing the depth of their core work – runners, swimmers, triathletes as well as golfers, cyclists and team athletes. I recommend doing core specific training twice a week and these workouts can be short and still effective. Check out the workout below to start cutting to your core this week! (If you have chronic back pain or any other chronic pains, it is always recommended to consult a physician before attempting physical exercise.)
Repeat each movement for 45 seconds with 15 seconds rest in between; repeat this round three times for a great 25 minute workout:
- Wide leg sit up (lay down with legs spread apart and arms overhead; slowly sit up at the waist until your spine is straight and your arms are overhead)
- Plank hold (body fully extended resting on your elbows and toes, pull your belly button back towards your spine to support your lower back)
- Toe touches (raise legs and bend knees slightly; reach toward your toes and raise your shoulders and torso off the ground as you do so. Lower and repeat)
- Side plank with hip raises – right side (hold a side plank on your left elbow and pulse your right hip towards the ceiling and lower back to a straight plank and repeat)
- Side plank with hip raises – left side
- Superman hold (lay stomach and face down with arms extended overhead; slowly lift your arms and legs up toward the ceiling, while keeping your head facing down so as not to strain your neck; hold this position)
- Side leg raises – right side (lay on your left side and lift your right leg into the air as far as possible; lower but do not allow your right leg to contact your left leg then repeat)
- Side leg raises – left side