Abdominal muscles are key to a strong core
The abdominals — which are primary core muscles — are an important part of the body to keep strong if you wish to move efficiently, and stay confident in your ability to keep active and injury free.
The abdominals play a key role protecting and stabilising the structures in our back. Strong abdominal muscles are important in stabilising our core, allowing us to move our limbs with purpose and perform even simple tasks such as getting out of a chair, turning while lying in bed, getting up from sitting or lying on the floor and maintaining our balance while moving. It is very important to train the core muscles, especially our abdominals, to be strong and enduring. This is particularly important if you have experienced episodes of back pain. The abdominal muscles are an integral mechanism of lower back support.
Strengthening abdominal muscles
There are exercises that can be performed safely to strengthen your abdominals if you have had back pain and instability in the past, or are currently experiencing back pain. If you are consistent with these exercises that are suggested below, you will be less likely to aggravate old back problems. It is very important to keep your lower back from bending repeatedly while performing these exercises. Placing a small rolled up towel under your lumbar spine (lower back) will help, allowing you to strengthen your abdominals without aggravating your back.
Tips when strengthening the abdominals if you have back pain
- Place a small rolled up towel under the lower back (lumbar spine) while lying on the floor. If you can’t find a towel or similar, then place both hands flattened under your lower lack instead.
- Curl up just lifting the head and chest slightly off the floor and no further
Try this exercise if you have back pain:
Modified Sit up
Briefly: Lie on your back, with one knee bent, and one knee straight. Place your hands under the small of your lower back. Contract your abdominal muscles to raise your head and shoulders off the floor along with your elbows.
- Lie on your back with one knee bent and one leg straight.
- Place both hands, palm down, under the small of your back.
- Contract your abdominal muscles to raise your head and shoulders off the floor along with your elbows.
- Control the movement as you lower back down onto the floor and relax.
If you do not have lower back pain, try the following exercises to help strengthen your abdominals:
Sit ups with overhead arms
Briefly: Lie on your back and arms overhead. Lift your arms off the floor and bring them forward and down by your sides followed by your head and chest into a sit up.
- Lie on your back with your arms overhead, palms facing each other. Bring your legs together with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Lift your arms off the floor and bring them forward and down by your sides followed by your head and chest into a sit up.
- Lower your shoulders and head back down onto the floor, bringing your arms overhead.
- Repeat the movements in a smooth controlled manner.
Briefly: Lying on your front with forearms on the floor, lift your body off the floor. Keep a straight line from your toes or your knees to shoulders.
- Lie on your front with your toes (or knees) on the floor.
- Place your forearms on the floor in line with your body and push up, lifting your torso and legs to create a straight line between your shoulders and feet (or knees).
- Tighten your core muscles and keep your body straight.
- Hold this position for the 30 seconds.
When performed regularly, these exercises can really increase core strength!