The myths about back pain and exercise, The best core exercises to support your back

This blog is the last of a 4-week blog series all about exercise and back pain.  It is important to read through the first 3 blogs and take some time to think about what movements and activities that you do every day that are triggering your back pain and create new habits that put less strain on your back. It is important that you develop a strong core (without hurting your back trying to do it) to properly support your back especially when doing activities that could irritate your back such as lifting heavy boxes incorrectly or twisting.
This information is based on the work of Dr. Stuart McGill.  If you suffer from back pain and would like help call Vintage Fitness (416-951-7978) to set up an assessment or if you would like to do a self -assessment I would recommend Dr McGill’s book Back Mechanic.

Week One:  The myths about back pain and exercise
Week Two: Learning your back-pain triggers
Week Three: What is spinal hygiene?
Week Four: The best core exercises to support your back

The best core exercises to support your back

1. Abdominal bracing:

  • Stand tall and pretend that someone is about to punch you in the stomach
  • Notice how your abdominal muscles gently activate
  • Different amounts of bracing are required for different activities- the example given in Chapter 7 of “back mechanic” is stronger bracing for lifting a heavy box and less bracing to stand up from a chair

2. The modified curl up:

  • Lye on your back with one knee bent
  • Bring your hands (palms down)
  • Lift the head very slightly off the ground
  • Many clients find this exercise difficult for their necks.  This is probably because many of us have a head forward posture which strains the muscles at the back of the neck and weakens the muscles at the front of the neck.  Start with just a few repetitions and work up.

3. Side Plank:

  • There are lots of ways to make this exercise easier or harder.  Watch the video to find the modification that is best for you
  • Lye on your side with your elbow down and your knees down (to start)
  • Lift the hips off the matt and hold at the top for a few seconds

4. Bird-Dog:

  • Go onto your hands and knees on the floor with your hands lining up underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips
  • Brace your core gently to protect the spine (pretend someone is going to gently punch you in the stomach)
  • Raise opposite arm and leg simultaneously
  • Don’t go past shoulder height with the arm and hip height with the leg
  • See the video for a standing version of this exercise if you can’t weight bear on your knees

5. Walking:

Research done by Stewart McGill shows that walking is important to help reduce pain in clients with chronic low back pain.  Slow walking with poor posture can trigger the pain so make sure when you walk you:

  • Stand tall making sure that your chin isn't jutting forward and your shoulders are down and relaxed
  • Gently brace your core
  • Swing the arms when you walk
  • Walk quickly to reduce the load on your back

Good Luck!


Vintage Fitness

Click to Call    416-951-7978

Vintage Fitness is an in home personal training company in Toronto, Canada.  We specialize in energizing the lives of people over 50 with exercise. 

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