Best Core Exercises That Won’t Harm Your Back

side bridge core
Best Core Strengthening Exercises that Won’t Harm Your Back

THE CORE. We hear about the core and the importance of strengthening the core all the time.   

A strong core improves balance and stability, promotes good posture, alleviates back pain, and aides the movement of daily activities. 

Yes, a strong core prevents pain and injury. But HOW you strengthen it is crucial.  

bird dog core exercise

Popular go-to “core” exercises can actually cause back pain and spine-related injury.  

The core muscles – abdominals, glutes, and muscles of the torso – keep the spine and pelvis in proper alignment and stabilize the body during movement. They need to be trained in conjunction to stabilize the lower back, but many traditional exercises work muscles in isolation.  

In fact, according to spinal research expert Dr. Stuart McGill, people who perform isolated exercises tend to get hurt sooner than those who do exercises that work to strengthen all the muscles together.  

Traditional sit-ups, crunches and other common exercises can be harmful.

The repeated lumbar flexion overloads the spinal discs, potentially causing serious damage to the low back.

exercise spinal loads

The healthy limit for low back compression is 3300 N, as set by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. 

Sit-Ups place 3500 N of compression on the spine. Curl-ups on a stability ball, 4000 N. Superman, 4300 N.  

1 sit-up compresses 786 pounds on the low back. Repeat that movement over and over, and you have yourself a recipe for disaster (long-term chronic pain).

Protect Your Spine! There are safer and more-effective ways to strengthen the core muscles! 

Exercises that maintain a neutral spinal position, as opposed to bending, are the best way to improve core strength while protecting and preventing back pain.  

Rethink your exercise routine! Dr. Stuart McGill’s Big 3 for Core Stability 

BEST Core Exercises That Won’t Harm Your Back!

1️⃣Modified Curl-Up: Lying on your back with one knee bent and one straight puts the pelvis, spine and core muscles in optimal alignment. Place your hand under the arch of your low back, and press into your hand each time you lift your upper back off the floor. 10-12 curl-ups, 3x. 

2️⃣Bird Dog: On all fours with hands directly below your shoulders and knees directly below hips, squeeze your abs and glutes. Lift right arm up to shoulder level and left leg back and up to hip level. Repeat with the opposite side. 8-10 reps, 3x.  

3️⃣Side Bridge: On your side, place your elbow directly under shoulder. With your top foot on the ground in front of bottom foot, lift your hips off the ground. Reach your top hand up or place it on your bottom shoulder. Squeeze your abs and glutes, and hold. 8-10 seconds, 3x.

Exercises to Avoid: Crunches, Side Twists, Superman
crunches
russian twist
Superman

Disclaimer: If you experience pain at any point during any exercise, stop! Pain is the body’s way of saying something is wrong, so don’t push yourself. Consult a doctor or medical professional if the pain persists.  

Our chiropractors and rehab specialists work one-on-one with patients to ensure exercises are being performed correctly, and to tailor exercises to the patients’ specific needs.