The WHY: I know I know… we all hate planks! But this simple, yet challenging exercise is one of the safest things you can do to strengthen your core while protecting your low back. During a plank, your muscles are creating an isometric contraction (meaning the muscle is contracting without changing position) and therefore stabilizing the core.
The HOW: Find a flat surface and place a towel or yoga mat under your elbows. Come up onto your elbows and make sure to keep your hips low. The temptation will be to hike your hips up, but this is bad form. Once they are low, start your timer and feeeeel the burn.
Brand new to this exercise? Start with a 30 second hold. Every day you do it, add 5 seconds to your time until you get to 60 seconds.
More advanced? Hold this exercise for 1 minute each day.
2. The Bridge
The WHY: The Bridge is an exercise that truly incorporates almost every muscle group in the core! (Abdominals, back, glutes/hips) This exercise helps eliminate any muscular imbalances in the core which will reduce your risk of injury. There are many variations to the bridge, but today we are focusing on the classic OG 🙂
The HOW: Lie on your back and bend your knees (keep your feet close to your body.) Before you do anything, contract your abdominal muscles and tuck your pelvis under. One way to help you understand how to do this, is to think if you had a tail you would be tucking it under your legs like a dog. While holding this position, think *squeeze your hips* and lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Hold this position for 1, 2, 3 seconds, then lower your hips, and untuck your pelvis.
Newbies: Perform 10 reps of the Bridge. Each day add 2 reps until you get to 30 repetitions.
More Advanced: Perform 30 reps.
3. Bird Dog
The WHY: To be honest with you, I have absolutely no idea why this exercise is called the “Bird Dog…” Nevertheless…it is. This exercise engages the back and the abdominals in such a way that requires you to stabilize your trunk as you incorporate upper and lower extremity movements. It is definitely the most advanced exercise of the three, but can make a big difference in your core stability.
The WHAT: Get onto a firm surface (not a bed), and move onto your hands and knees. Make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees are directly under your hips. Next, brace your core by thinking about *squeezing your belly button toward your spine.* Hold that squeeze as you extend your right leg and left arm. Make sure not to rotate your hips side-to-side, this is bad form. I should be able to balance a dowel rod across the small of your back during this exercise and it should stay put. As you place your right leg and left arm back down, KEEP that squeeze in your abdominals and lift your left leg and right arm.
Everyone: Start with doing 5 complete repetitions (right and left = 1 repetition) before you release the contraction in your abdominals. If this feels easy, do 5 more. If it feels challenging or you notice your hips are swaying side to side stop for today. Tomorrow try 6. Work your way up to 20 repetitions.
I hope you enjoyed learning the 3 core building exercises you should be doing every day! If you are consistent with these exercises and perform them daily, you will be well on your way to building that core strength to promote a healthy back for life!