Eight Best Exercises to Support Your Spine

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Eight Best Exercises to Support Your Spine

Plank Hold

Plank holds are a great way to stabilize muscles and build muscle endurance.  During a plank hold the abdominal muscles are held in an isometric contraction, which means the muscles are shortened without causing movement at the joints.  Correct plank form involves tightening the abdominal muscles and keeping the body in a straight line.  Avoid raising the hips too high because this will involve a different set of muscles.

Steps:

Duration: 30 seconds – 2 minutes

Level: Beginner

Warning: Avoid if history of shoulder problems exists.

Cat Camel (Cat Cow)

Steps: Begin kneeling with shoulders stacked over wrists and hips stacked over knees.  Contract abdominal muscles and curve spine, allowing neck to fall forward.  This contracted position is called “cat”.  Return to neutral position.  Then contract back muscles to drop stomach and arch, allowing to focus to drift upwards.  This position is called “camel”.  Return to neutral to repeat cycle.

Duration: 1 – 3 minutes

Level: Beginning

Warning: Avoid lifting shoulders in contraction – keep neck long.

Bird Dog

Steps: Begin kneeling with shoulders stacked over wrists and hips stacked over knees.  Extend opposite arm and leg  away from the ground until fully extended.  Engage abdominal muscles to maintain balance.  Lower arm and leg to kneeling position.  Repeat with opposite arm and leg to complete one cycles.  Move slowly and consistently to maintain control and see the best benefits.

Duration: up to 3 sets of 6 cycles

Level: Intermediate

Try from plank position for an advanced workout!

Warning: Avoid sinking into low back during exercise – keep core muscles strong!

Bridge Up

Steps: Begin laying on back with knees bent in line with hips.  Arms should be pressed down to the side pointing towards legs.  Press heels into ground until hips lift off the ground until torso is aligned with thighs, keeping arms and shoulders pressed into the ground.  Roll body down to the ground one vertebrae at a time ending with the pelvis.  Repeated immediately.

Duration: up to 3 sets of 15 repetitions

Level: Beginner

Warning:  Avoid lifting head off ground and tucking chin or overextending torso past thighs.

Toe Touches 

Steps: Begin laying on back with legs bent at 90 degrees.  Arms can be down to the side or placed under pelvis for added support.  Lift legs so that knees are directly over hips and bent at 90 degrees.  Lower one leg to the ground still bent and lightly touch toe to the ground, without placing weight down.  Lift leg back to bent position and repeat with opposite leg to complete cycles.  The entire spine should remain connected to the ground throughout the exercise.  Movement should be slow, controlled, and consistent.

Duration: 3 sets of 6 cycles

Level: Beginner

Warning: Avoid arching back to lower leg to the ground.  Keep entire spine connected to the floor by engaging abdominal muscles.

Dead Bug

Steps: Begin laying on back with arms and legs bent at 90 degrees.  Knees should be stacked vertically over the hips and the arms should be stacked vertically over the shoulders.  Press low back into the ground to engage core.  Extend opposite arm and leg parallel to the ground, keeping low back pressed into the ground.  Return to neutral position and repeat on the other side to complete one cycle.

Duration: 3 sets of 6 cycles

Level: Intermediate

Warning:  Avoid twisting spine when extending limbs.

Reverse Crunch

Steps: Begin on back with arms down to the side and legs bent at 90 degrees.  Press into the ground with arms and use abdominal muscles to lift hips off the ground, keeping legs bent.  Lower pelvis to ground in controlled manner and repeat.

Duration: 3 minutes

Level: Intermediate

Warning: Avoid relying on momentum to swing legs off the ground.

Side Leg Raise

Steps: Begin on side propped up on bottom forearm.  Keep elbow directly underneath shoulder, perpendicular to body.  Legs should be vertically stacked with opposite arm on hip.  Lift top leg about one foot off ground then lower to original position.  Repeat immediately.  Switch sides in between sets.

Duration: 3 sets of 20 repetitions

Level: Beginner

Warning: Use a pillow to support side if history of shoulder injury exists.

References

King, Kelvin, Jr. “9 Dead Bug Variations That Build an Athletic Core.” Stack. Fox Sports Engage Network, 08 Aug. 2016. Web. 23 May 2017.

Liebman, Hollis Lance. Anatomy of Fitness: Core. Heatherton, Victoria: Hinkler, 2014. Print.

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