Core Stability Exercises

No More Sit-Ups

*Update (September 2017) Research, and clinical practice are an ever-changing landscape. As new information becomes available we need to adjust our approach accordingly – what we may have prescribed at one time may need to be tweaked and/or updated.

The area of exercise, core-exercises, and back pain are no exception to these changes. While still offering a good baseline on exercise and back pain biomechanics, the information below may be too narrow in its scope, or limiting in its application. A more comprehensive approach incorporating emerging concepts in pain science, and the biopsychosocial model are also important considerations.

You may have heard the advice “100 sit-ups a day to keep your stomach and back strong”. And if you haven’t heard it then surely, with the best of intentions, you have thought “I know I should do more sit-ups to help me stay in shape”. Well, today we’re here to tell you that you don’t need to do a sit-up again. In fact, you don’t need to do a sit-up, trunk twist, leg lift, back extension or any combination of those exercises. Biomechanical studies now show that these traditional exercises for core strength and stability put tremendous pressure on the vertebrae and stress on the discs in your lower back. Of course doing a few sit-ups isn’t dangerous, however, performing movements that require your back to go through flexion, extension and twisting repetitively could increase the risk of future back injury or irritate an existing condition. In fact it’s common to see patients with chronic low back pain that have been doing sit ups for years and don’t understand why it’s not working.

But before you get too excited about not doing sit-ups – keep reading. Ensuring you have good core stability, meaning that the muscles of your stomach and back are conditioned well, is a key factor in maintaining good spinal health. Even though the aforementioned exercises should be avoided it doesn’t mean that all exercises for your core are out.

So then, what makes a core exercise safe and healthy? There are some basic principles to keep in mind:

  • Maintain a neutral spine position. This is similar to holding your back in the “proper posture” position you may remember from grade school. Doing this helps to balance out the forces and stresses acting on your spine.
  • Brace all of the muscles around your trunk while performing the exercise. This ensures that all of your core muscles are engaged and working to keep your spine in the safe, neutral position.
  • Low back exercises are most beneficial when performed daily. However, don’t do them first thing in the morning – wait at least 1 hour after rising to reduce the stress on the discs.
  • Focus on good form and technique – as your endurance improves, increase the repetitions.
  • If a certain exercise causes pain, don’t do it – it may be too early in your recovery or your technique may be incorrect.

If you suffer from back pain, core stability exercises and spinal adjustments can help in the recovery process. If you are already feeling well, these exercises, along with chiropractic checkups can help to maintain good spinal health. Before starting a new exercise program, visit us to ensure proper form and technique.

And if you’re still not sure about how best to manage your back pain, please don’t hesitate to take the opportunity and book a free consultation with us. We’re always happy to chat.


Note: This article is for information purposes only. Consult your healthcare provider prior to starting any changes to your health routine.