Sunday, March 22, 2009

Core Strengthening Exercises: Love Your Back

Woman exercising with yoga ball

Core stability and core strengthening exercises are a much
overlooked, but vital, part of a comprehensive workout
routine and back health maintenance.

Twist. Turn. Bend over. Sit all day. Get in and out of the
car. Carry those groceries. We put our back through all
kinds of stuff, and it never complains. Or does it? If we're
out of shape in our core muscles, our back will let us know
pretty quick. The core muscles support the lower back and
internal organs, and if we stop taking care of them, like
most of us have, we are in for some soreness and more and
more days of pain the longer we let it go on.

And our workout routines become ever more risky; we always
are on the edge of straining our back.

OK, then, what are some really good core strengthening
exercises to do?

1. Pilates. Get in with the girls and do Pilates! Now, for
some reason, Pilates has a sort of wimpy reputation, but I
know first hand that a good Pilates routine will kick some
serious behind! I've gotten a lot stronger core since I
incorporated Pilates-type exercises into my regular workout

2. The Farmer's Walk. This is really a whole body exercise,
but your core will work real hard, as will your back, legs,
arms and hands. Just go pick up two very heavy dumbbells,
and carry them over to the other side of the room and back
again. Maybe another time. Your core will work overtime to
keep you balanced and stable.

3. The Wood Chopper. Hold a medicine ball in both hands over
your head and off to one side. Then, as if you were chopping
wood, swing it down and over toward the opposite foot. Then
swing it back up along the same path. Do that several times,
and switch sides. Make sure you use your legs and hips to
help keep your back from bending too much.

4. Saxon Bends. These are tough. Take that ball again, or a
weight plate if you need more weight, and hold it over your
head. Now bend over to one side, without bending your back
from front to back. You're just going side to side. When
you've gone as far over as you can, head on over to the
other side. Back to center again is one.

You can incorporate these exercises in your regular workout.
Put 'em in the middle, use them as a warm up (they are great
for warming up and getting away from the treadmill), or do
them at the end. Or devote a whole workout just to core
strengthening exercises; your body will thank you!
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