This article originally appeared in the October – November 2017 issue of Generations Magazine.
Core training is one of the most popular concepts in the field of fitness and physical therapy. Core stability training is often associated with strengthening your abdominal muscles — the “abs.” The ab muscles play a very important role, but the core also includes multiple muscles in the mid-lower back, pelvic floor, hips and buttocks.
This ring of muscles, or the “internal belt,” holds us up during the day, reducing falls, decreasing back pain and improving posture and even bladder control.
Whether you are lifting your grandchild or playing your favorite sport, your core muscles help maintain the body in proper alignment to avoid injury.
I often see patients who fall victim to the latest fitness trends that train the core improperly, leading to spine or leg injuries. Crunches, side-bends and rotational exercises with weights or kettlebells are not bad, but as we age, they often create more problems than benefits.
Exercises that engage the muscles by bracing the entire trunk — as though you are wearing an internal belt rather than sucking the stomach in and flexing forward — are more effective in improving core stability.
If you have poor posture and a weak core, try this simple, effective exercise to begin developing core control:
- Start by finding an open wall.
- Stand at the wall facing outward. Then place your heels about 6 inches away from bottom portion of the wall.
- While keeping your foot planted, lean back against the wall with your back flush to the wall.
- Pull your shoulders and arms back so they touch the wall.
- Push your shoulders down with your palms facing out.
- Tighten your abdominals so your lower back touches the wall — as if a force is sucking your back up against it.
- Stand tall and breathe, hold for 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
This simple exercise will tighten your internal belt and help you avoid injuries.