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Contrary to popular belief that in order to have a good strong core we need to be doing sit-ups and crunches, instead, we need to take into consideration the purpose and function of the core. Our core is primarily used to resist extension, flexion and rotation in the lumbar spine and provide stability. Many adults suffer with lower back pain due the demands of our jobs, postures and how poorly designed chairs and car seats are made today.
So, if one is currently suffering from back pain why would we have them flex and extend their lumbar spine, adding compressive forces ultimately doing more damage and more pain?
So what can we do as alternatives for core training? Here are some of my go to core exercises that challenge the core while resisting extension, flexion, and rotation.
The Bodysaw is a great progression once you have mastered the plank. During the Bodysaw we add some instability with the movement by sliding back and forth. This will challenge the lower abdominals to stabilize as well as resist the force of lumbar extension.
2) Pallof Press
The Palloff Press is a great option for developing anti-rotation in the core. It is also a great exercise selection for someone who cannot or struggles to get up and down off of the floor. There are many different ways to apply the Palloff Press, however, in this situation, we will talk about the standing position. All we need is a band attached to a rack or wall and step away from the attachment with slight resistance on the band. You can press the band out and hold it for a time count or you can simply press it back and forth with a slight pause on the way out and do this for a rep count. The goal here is to develop the outer abdominal wall and obliques while developing resistance to rotational forces, further supporting stability in the lumbar spine.
3) Bear Crawl
The Bear Crawl is a great cross body motor pattern and is challenging not just physically but mentally as well. The bear crawl requires coordination, balance and strength to perform correctly. Often times as someone performs the bear crawl they tend to twist and turn at the hips. Instead we want to fully engage the core and pretend we have a cup of water on our back and we don't want to spill it. As we begin to move we want to utilize the opposite hand and leg to move together simultaneously while maintaining stability in our core. Try to remain as stable as possible. This exercise may be difficult for some, but with purposeful and deliberate practice over time you will improve.