Core exercises that help reduce back pain while strengthening your entire body

A weak core can cause pain in your entire body — especially in your back and neck. If you suffer from a previous back injury or have recently injured your back, you might want to look into strengthening your core. Regaining strength in your abdominal muscles isn’t done just through sit-ups and crunches, two exercises that can actually cause strain on our necks.

There are other ways to work your core that benefit not just your abs, but your back, legs, and total body. Here are five core workouts that work more than just your abs:

The Swimmer

This pilates-style exercise is a great way to strengthen your core and improve spinal mobility.

How to do it:

  • Lying on your stomach, you’ll lift the right arm and left leg off the ground, then alternate.
  • Make sure to tighten or suck in your abs during the process — once, in a rhythm, you’ll mimic the motion of swimming.

Superman

Who doesn’t love a superhero? This exercise works the calves, glutes, and upper back.

How to do it:

  • Lying on your stomach with your abs tucked in, lift your legs and arms at the same time.
  • Be sure not to hyperextend, which puts extra pressure on your back.
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Dead Bug

If you have physical therapy for sciatica or a slipped disc, this exercise might look familiar. The dead bug is used to help strengthen the spine. Dead bugs work the arms, back, core, spine, and legs, increasing flexibility and mobility. Dead bugs are a go-to exercise for those who need a little extra help with back pain.

How to do it:

  • Lie on the floor, legs flat and arms overhead.
  • With your stomach sucked in, lift your right knee so it’s bent 90 degrees over your hips.
  • Raise your right arm straight, pointing to the ceiling.
  • Slowly lower the two, and then lift the left knee and right arm.

Keep in mind: If lifting in this manner hurts or tugs, modify it. Instead of lifting the arms at the same time, place your arms under your lower back and just left your legs.

Bird Dog

Helps connect your spine, neck, and total body together. Focusing on stability and structure- the bird dog is great for core and bodily coordination.

How to do it:

  • Start with your hands and knees in a tabletop position with your wrists stacked under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  • Extend your right arm forward and your left leg backwards, trying to keep your back flat and your eyes down towards the floor. Then you alternate.

Remember: Squeeze your abs the entire time. This will help if you’re a little wobbly.

Glute Bridge

This exercise may look like it only target the glutes, but don’t be fooled: Glute bridges, whether weighted or not, help with stabilization and strengthening of the lower back, reducing lower back and knee pain.

How to do it:

  • Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, keeping your knees hip-distance apart.
  • Raise your hips and squeeze your glutes.
  • Once up, your neck, back, and knees should be in a line.
  • Drop down and repeat.

All of these exercises can be modified to fit your strength level. Once you’re feeling confident doing the exercises, try add weights or resistance bands. If you need to take it lighter, don’t extend as much and do shorter reps. Once you build your strength you’ll be able to add a little weight.

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