So, as anyone who has talked to me or read my website will know by now, I strongly feel that the risk of almost all back problems can be minimised if you have really good core strength and control. There are a number of ways of going about gaining this level of fitness, but there are a few things to bear in mind.
You are always going to be better off going to a class, rather than trying to do it at home. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll need to practice at home as a once-a-week session simply isn’t going to get you where you want to be, but having a fully trained, qualified instructor telling you what to do and picking up any flaws in your technique is invaluable.
Second, this is not something you can just achieve, and then leave. I speak from experience: if you try resting on your laurels thinking “oh yes, I have good core strength” and fail to continually work on your exercises, like any muscle they will simply weaken again in a suprisingly short time. It’s a good idea, therefore, to build in core exercises to your daily routine so that it comes as naturally as brushing your teeth. It doesn’t need to take that much longer than brushing your teeth, either, if you do it on a regular basis!
Finally, before embarking on any core strength training, speak with someone like myself (a chiropractor), an osteopath, a physiotherapist, a Pilates instructor or a yoga instructor to make sure there are no current problems that need addressing before you get into it.
All that being said, what is it you should be doing?
Well, I was going to write my own list of exercises, tips and advice…maybe even do some pics to demonstrate the exercises or at least link through to suitable websites that you can look at, yes?
Then, while looking for just such websites to link to, I came across this and decided that was actually a really rather good selection, well written and for the most part easy to follow! So read, digest, enjoy and get that core strength going!
Just a few caveats on this particular set of exercises. I generally don’t recommend doing the “cobra stretch” that they have listed – it’s fine if your back is pretty healthy, but if you’ve had any problems in the past (which most people I talk to have had!) then it bends everything in all the wrong ways.
Similarly, they have included the “supine twist” and “supine twist on a physioball”. Now, done very carefully and in complete control, this is OK. But if it’s done too quickly or without enough support from your core muscles, you can end up putting far too much twist through your lower back. Doing on the gym ball/physioball is actually better than doing it without, but I would suggest that unless you are very sure of your strength and very careful 100% of the time while you do it, just give this one a miss as well!
Otherwise, have fun! Remember that core strength is something to continually work on, you are better at least occasionally attending a class, and the more variety you work in to your routine the better.