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Core Strengthening Exercises

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What do I need to know about core strengthening exercises?

Your core includes the muscles of your lower back, hip, pelvis, and abdomen. Core strengthening exercises help heal and strengthen these muscles. This helps prevent another injury, and keeps your pelvis, spine, and hips in the correct position.

What do I need to know about exercise safety?

Talk to your healthcare provider before you start an exercise program. A physical therapist can teach you how to do core strengthening exercises safely.

  • Do the exercises on a mat or firm surface. A firm surface will support your spine and avoid low back pain. Do not do these exercises on a bed.
  • Move slowly and smoothly. Avoid fast or jerky motions.
  • Stop if you feel pain. Core exercises should not feel painful. Stop if you feel pain.
  • Breathe normally during core exercises. Do not hold your breath. This may cause an increase in blood pressure and prevent muscle strengthening. Your healthcare provider will tell you when to inhale and exhale during the exercise.
  • Begin all of your exercises with abdominal bracing. Abdominal bracing helps warm up your core muscles. You can also practice abdominal bracing throughout the day while you are sitting or standing. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your arms in a relaxed position beside your body. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Pull your belly button in and up toward your spine. Hold for 5 seconds. Relax your muscles. Repeat 10 times.
    Abdominal Bracing

How do I perform core strengthening exercises?

Your healthcare provider will tell you how often to do these exercises. The provider will also tell you how many repetitions of each exercise you should do. Hold each exercise for 5 seconds or as directed. As you get stronger, increase your hold to 10 to 15 seconds. You can do some of these exercises on a stability ball, or with a weight. Ask your healthcare provider how to use a stability ball or weight for these exercises:

  • Bent leg side bridge: Lie on one side with your legs, hips, and shoulders in a straight line. Prop yourself up onto your forearm so your elbow is directly below your shoulder. Bend your knees to 90°. Lift your hips off the floor. Balance yourself on your forearm and the side of your knee. Hold this position. Repeat on the other side.
    Bent Leg Side Bridge
  • Straight leg side bridge: Lie on one side with your legs, hips, and shoulders in a straight line. Prop yourself up onto your forearm so your elbow is directly below your shoulder. Your top leg can rest in front of your bottom leg for support. Lift your hips off the floor. Balance yourself on your forearm and the outside of your flexed foot. Do not let your ankle bend sideways. Hold this position. Repeat on the other side.
    Straight Leg Bridge
  • Superman: Lie on your stomach. Extend your arms forward on the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your right hand and left leg off the floor. Hold this position. Slowly return to the starting position. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your left hand and right leg off the floor. Hold this position. Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Curl up: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands, palms down, underneath your lower back. Next, with your elbows on the floor, lift your shoulders and chest 2 to 3 inches off the floor. Keep your head in line with your shoulders. Hold this position. Slowly return to the starting position.
    Abdominal Curl Up
  • Straight leg raises: Lie on your back with one leg straight. Bend the other knee and place your foot flat on the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Keep your leg straight and slowly lift it straight up 6 to 12 inches off the floor. Hold this position. Lower your leg slowly. Do as many repetitions as directed on this side. Repeat with the other leg.
    Straight Leg Raises
  • Plank: Lie on your stomach. Bend your elbows and place your forearms flat on the floor. Lift your chest, stomach, and knees off the floor. Make sure your elbows are below your shoulders. Your body should be in a straight line. Do not let your hips or lower back sink to the ground. Squeeze your abdominal muscles together and hold for 15 seconds. To make this exercise harder, hold for 30 seconds or lift 1 leg at a time.
  • Bicycles: Lie on your back. Bend both knees and bring them toward your chest. Your calves should be parallel to the floor. Place the palms of your hands on the back of your head. Straighten your right leg and keep it lifted 2 inches off the floor. Raise your head and shoulders off the floor and twist towards your left. Keep your head and shoulders lifted. Bend your right knee while you straighten your left leg. Keep your left leg 2 inches off the floor. Twist your head and chest towards the left leg. Continue to straighten 1 leg at a time and twist.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have sharp or worsening pain during exercise or at rest.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, care, or exercise program.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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