The best support act
Siobhan Byrne explains why the core has a starring role to play in better back health
LAST week we began looking at back health, and focused on the need to first identify what is wrong in order to stop doing the things that aggravate the problem. This week, I’m going to look at the importance of core strength in supporting the back.
Sometimes people believe the core relates only to the abdominal area, but it is so much more than that: it includes internal and external obliques, the transverse abdominis, the erector spinae in your back, diaphragm and more.
Good core strength needs to be developed over time, to support the inner muscles. I use the analogy of the foundations of a house being the core of the home. If they are weak, the entire structure will never be strong so, although you may have built muscle in the back, chest and abs, the core may still need development.
If our muscles are weak, our body will end up relying on ligaments, discs and soft tissues, putting strain on them. It’s not too late to start improving core strength.
But how do you know you are doing a core exercise correctly? Well, take for example the standard plank or bridge exercise, with hands or elbows on the ground, your body straight and on your toes, face down. Make sure your bottom is flat and that the lower back is not dipping. Try holding in your stomach at the same time. In core exercises you should feel a light pull in the abs from the lower abdominal area right up to the diaphragm. If you feel a pinch in the lower back straight away you are most likely dipping the lower back.
You may also experience a pinch in the lower back if, after performing this exercise for a period of time, your core muscles get tired and then start to use the weakened lower back area. Stop and take a break and then try again for a shorter period of time until your strength develops over time. Below are some core exercises to get you started.