Back on track

Spinal stability and core control

by Adam Ridler

With the extra time we have on our hands it is a great chance to work on some of our niggles and persistent pain that can often dog us during normal activities. The most prevalent issue is lower back pain with 80% of people reporting some form of back pain in their lifetime.

There has been a lot of research and work on “the best exercises” for lower back pain – but usually each case is different so may need different approaches. That said a good place to start is to find some exercises which offer strengthening in most areas.

In my experience this means being able to control spine in flexion (bending forward), extension (leaning back) and controlling lateral forces (side-on). One of the worlds leading authorities on back pain is Dr Stuart McGill and below is a slightly modified version of his “big three” exercises, which I find deliver consistent strengthening to the core.

Exercise 1 – CURL UP
Lying on your back with either your feet on the floor or legs in table (knees over hips, shins parallel to floor), take your finger tops to your temple and push the elbows wide. Breathe out and slowly curl forward – think of pulling your rib cage down towards the hips so you slowly lift the head and shoulders from the floor. Hold this for a breath in, then on the next breath out slowly curl down. Use the breathing to maintain a slow controlled rhythm. Perform 10-15 reps

Exercise 2 – SUPERMAN
Find a 4 point kneel, hands below your shoulders and knees underneath your hips, balance the weight out evenly between them. Lift one foot off the floor extending this leg out behind you, as you do this maintain a neutral spine, and don’t fall into the opposite leg. Once the leg is stable take the opposite arm out to the side, as you do this squeeze under the opposite armpit to hold you steady. Hold for 10 seconds per side and do 3 to 6 sets.

Exercise 3 – SIDE PLANK
Set up into a plank (on your toes) or half plank position (on your knees), take one forearm across and slowly turn the body to face that side, squeeze underneath the bottom sides arm pit and squeeze that side of the bum, lifting the waist as far away from the floor as possible. Pull in through the abdominals and in between the shoulders to hold the body straight. Hold this for 10 seconds then turn straight on to the opposite side for 10 seconds, perform 3 to 6 sets.

These exercises teach us to control force from different directions around the spine, however these exercises should be felt through the back and side muscles, never the lower back, if you feel the lower back reset yourself and go again or regress the exercise slightly.

by Adam Ridler
Master Trainer at Ten Health & Fitness, Rower, Sophie's Dad

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