Core Strengthening with Care

Core strengthening is very important for protecting the lower back against injury.  The “core” in this context refers to the muscles that support the lower back; the rectus abdominus, the obliques, transversus abdominis and the various layers of muscles in the lumbar spine area (multifidus, quadratus lumborum, parapsinal muscles and latissimus) to name a few. Plank exercises have become a very common exercise for strengthening the core area.  The benefit of the plank exercise is that it challenges the muscles of the area while sparing the spine.  That is, by not moving the spine we avoid the “wear and tear” of movement cycles in the joints.

Recently a patient of mine brought in a golf magazine to show me an article on recommended exercises for your lower back.  Funny enough, the title read “skip the chiropractor and try these moves instead”.  Although I’ve seen worse (and one of the exercises was quite clever and probably safe for most spines) the last exercise on the page seemed far too advanced for most people at least in my opinion.

Understand your body’s limits

Imagine doing a side plank, but instead of your feet being on the ground, put them on a stool about a foot off the ground.  Instead of resting your upper body on your elbow or your hand as is what is usually done, cross your arms and just lie directly on your shoulder.  Once you’re up in a plank position using this set-up, raise the upper leg up in the air.  Wow!  In my opinion, that’s fairly advanced!

At the risk of sounding defensive because of the title of the article, I found this interesting.  The article stated that these exercises would protect your back from injury. In general, planks are a good thought for safe strengthening of the lower back and abdominal muscles.  However, my typical patient who golfs recreationally would likely hurt themselves doing this exercise.  It may be the shoulder, the hip or the lower back, but I think with enough time doing this exercise something would get injured.   Perhaps this is a reminder that it’s always a good idea to ask a knowledgeable person (whether it be a healthcare practitioner or a strength and conditioning specialist) about what exercises are appropriate for your level of fitness and your physical injuries.  Just because it’s in a magazine doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for you.

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