Do you like to get down on the floor on your back with your knees bent and place your hands behind your head and then proceed to sit up? And sit up? And sit up? Sounds like we’re talking about sit-ups, right? Sit-ups were not fun for me as a child. Maybe that’s why I don’t like them as an adult.
I do like strengthening the core and have learned various ways to do that instead of doing sit-ups. What is the core on the body? Most people think of the abdominals and six-pack abs as the core. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), our core is a three-dimensional cylindrical unit where muscles run in more than one direction. These muscles are the transverse abdominus, obliques, rectus abdominus and erector spinae with the diaphragm muscle at the top of the cylinder and the pelvic floor muscles at the bottom. It’s important to keep these muscles strong so they can support the spine and keep our back healthy. Here are three effective core exercises (ACE) that I like to do.
The wood chop. This helps to build core rotational strength. If using a resistance band, place band end on the ground and stand on it with both feet. Hold the other end with both hands and tighten your abdominals. Squat down with your weight in your heels and your spine aligned. Stand up and rotate your arms out in front of your body, twisting at the ribcage with your hips squared to the front. Keep your knees slightly bent at the top of your movement (don’t lock out your knees).
The bird dog. This helps to build three-dimensional (three-dimensional is rotational, side-to-side and forward-backward movement) core stability strength. You don’t need any equipment for this exercise; just the floor and maybe a yoga mat for cushion if you prefer. Lower your body onto all fours (on your hands and knees). Tighten your abdominals. Extend one arm out in front while the opposite leg extends back. Hold for a count of 8-10 seconds and repeat on the other side.
The prone plank. Like the bird dog, this will build three-dimensional core stability strength. You can do this on the floor on your hands and up on your toes. If you have wrist pain, you can lower yourself to your forearms. You can also make this easier by having your knees on the floor instead of your toes. Tighten your abdominals and hold for a count of 15-30 seconds. Your body should be positioned like a straight board or a plank.
Keep your core muscles strong with these exercises. Here’s to your great back health.
Jonathan Souder is the Fitness Director at Manor House, an Acts Retirement-Life Community in Seaford, Delaware. This column appeared in the November 9, 2017 edition of the Seaford Star.