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3 Core-Strengthening Exercises for Low Back Health

Brian MockMore than 31 million Americans experience low back pain at any given time. To avoid back issues, prevention is key. Brian Mock, PT, DPT, facility director at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services’ location at the UPMC Outpatient Center-Wexford, explains three core strengthening exercises shown to increase core stability and reduce stress on the low back.

“These core strengthening exercises help build flexibility and endurance, and enhance stability,” explains Brian. “They challenge your muscles but are executed in a way that minimizes the risk of injury. Always be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.”

Dying/dead bug exercise
To perform this exercise, lie flat on your back on a mat with your knees bent and your arms at your sides. Then raise both legs and arms up toward the ceiling to mimic a dying bug.

  • From the dying bug position, move your right arm to the floor above your head and your left leg down to the floor at the same time.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat the move, lowering your left arm to the floor above your head and move your right leg to the floor at the same time.
  • Do these movements in tandem so one arm and the opposite leg are on the floor, and then up in the air, at the same time.
  • Start with 10 to 15 repetitions per side and gradually work up to 20 to 25 repetitions.

Side plank
While lying on a mat on your left side, prop your torso up on your left arm.

  • Lift your hips off the mat. Be sure that your knees, hips, and shoulders are in a line.
  • Hold for eight seconds and then bring your hips back down to the mat.
  • Start by doing two repetitions at eight seconds each. Gradually work up to five repetitions at eight to 10 seconds each.
  • Turn on your right side and repeat the steps.

Bird dog exercise
Start on your hands and knees with a neutral spine, so your shoulder blades are down and back, your neck is long, and your chin is up toward the ceiling. 

  • Straighten your right leg back, with your toes pointed down. Raise your left arm out in front of your head. Hold that position for eight to 10 seconds.
  • Lower your arm and leg to the mat.
  • Switch sides, straightening your left leg back, with your toes pointed down. Raise your right arm out in front of your head. Hold for eight to 10 seconds.

Start by doing four to five repetitions on each side. As you build endurance, you can increase the repetitions.

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