Building a STRONG Back and Core
After years of suffering from lower back pain, it was pointed out to me that, aside from my arthritis, I also had a weak core. Being a nurse awakens you up to back awareness, as it is one of the highest risk jobs in terms of back injury. However, simply down to the fact that more and more jobs (and lives) these days are largely sedentary, never mind the increasing rates of obesity, the back and core muscles are becoming increasingly UNDER-worked making chronic back pain a problem across the board.
Basically, like with all muscles, if you want them to be strong, you’ve gotta use them! So, with that in mind, Andrew and I have set about a joint project to explore and demonstrate how to build a “Strong Back and Core” and, “Building a Bullet-Proof Back“.
This article will cover some of the most effective ways to strengthen the core stabilising muscles of the “trunk” (gotta love that word LOL) for day to day living, exercising, and for those who need to learn how to engage those muscles in the first place. Andrew, on the other hand, will cover how to take this strength to the next level in building a highly functional and robust back specifically designed for heavy lifting.
So why do we need our core muscles anyway? Well, the clue is in the name. Like the core of an apple or the core of the earth, everything revolves around it.
The human Core provides:
- Structure – to enable an upright tension for the rest of our body, otherwise known as posture.
- Support – for the spine, pelvis, chest – without it we would just collapse into a heap of skin and bones.
- Protection – guards the internal organs and the spinal chord from sudden injury, during and outside of exercise.
- Stability – If engaged during movements, the core and back become vital in balance and co-ordination.
From the benefits, we can clearly deduce that a weak core will leave us at risk from both acute injury and possibly chronic pain.
To lower the risk of such injuries and pain, we can add a few simple exercises to our daily routine or workouts. The video below shows a few demonstrations of the best exercises for engaging and strengthening the back and core.
As a back and core routine, I would do the following workout using the exercises featured in the video:
- Dumbell Partial/Full Deadlifts – aiming for 3 sets of approximately 10 – 15 rep range, keeping the weight moderate. Reps are only a guide, listen to the muscles being worked and gauge if you can do more or less reps.
- Good Mornings (intermediate to advanced level exercise – needing careful attention/training for proper form – if unsure, seek professional advice, or leave out). Aim for 3 sets (I use barbell weight throughout) and approx 15 reps.
- Stability Ball Hyper-extensions – Body weight only (can be advanced by using weight). I prefer body-weight only on the ball because it’s advanced enough due to added need to balance on the ball. Aim again for 3 sets of about 15 reps.
- The glute raise with knee extensions (static hold), side bridge holds (intermediate or advanced), and the plank holds (appropriate level) are best performed for time in a circuit. Say, 20 – 60 second holds (depending on ability), then 30 second rest. Repeat 2 rounds of this circuit, to give the core a real burn.
Be aware of your technique during each exercise. Keep your back straight, head looking out in front (or in line with spine). Don’t let your butt raise into the air or slump towards the floor during the planks. During the circuit, maintain the tension through the core and take shallow breaths.
If you are unsure about your technique, then seek advice from a trained fitness professional. This is a guide to what can be achieved to help strengthen the back and core.