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ENHANCE CORE FITNESS FOR A STRONGER BACK: COMPLETE CORE MUSCLES EXERCISES GUIDE


Your core is more than just a six-pack! It's the foundation of your entire body, encompassing muscles in your abdominal regions like the external oblique. This article dives deep into core fitness, exploring essential core muscle exercises to strengthen your entire core, including the external oblique muscle. Learn what exactly are the core muscles, why core strength is so important to prevent lower back pain.


Get ready to build stability, improve posture, and unlock a stronger you!


man doing plank with weights, core muscles strength exercise

WHAT DOES "CORE MUSCLES" MEAN?


"Core Muscles" is one of those workout spell words that echo enigmatically in your head each time you walk into the gym, yoga studio or therapy room. However, understanding these muscles is not just about jargon, it's about empowering yourself with knowledge. Unless you took a specialised workshop, no one has ever explained exactly what those core muscles were - and, no, it's not just 'abs' and 'gluts'!


The core muscles are mutually dependent muscle groups with an important function. The abdominal regions of core muscles include the upper and lower abs, obliques, and transverse abdominis. For the sake of remembering and learning where are the core muscles in the body, I have grouped them and gave them a name that’s easy to remember:


P-DIET


1. P – PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES

2. D – DIAPHRAGM  

3. I – INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL OBLIQUE MUSCLES

4. E – ERECTOR SPINAE AND MULTIFIDUS

5. T – TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS


core muscles in the abdominal region and back


WHY ARE CORE MUSCLES SO IMPORTANT?


The main function of the P-DIET  as a group is stabilising the spine and the trunk. Strong core muscles, especially those in the abdominal regions, provide stability and power for everyday activities. They keep the spine in an anatomically correct position and allow maximum healthy movement of the head and limbs.


Regularly incorporating core fitness exercises strengthens your abdominal regions, leading to better posture and stability. That's why core muscle exercises are essential to prevent and ease lower back pain.


P-DIET’s other function is, together with a ribcage and hip bone, to make a protective and supportive ‘container’ for your heart, lungs, and digestive system.


Let’s have a look at those core muscles individually, their function, location, and the main objectives for the exercise.


1. PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES


FUNCTION: The Pelvic floor muscles support the pelvic floor organs, stabilise connecting joints, and act as a venous and lymphatic pump for the pelvis. Trigger points on this part of the core muscles can cause pain in the pelvic area.


EXERCISE OBJECTIVES: Try to Tone and increase blood, oxygen and nutrient flow to the pelvic area for pelvic floor muscles to be strong and supple. Yoga offers plenty of pelvic floor exercises for these muscles to be strong and elastic.


HOW TO STRENGTHEN PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES:


  • Try Yoga and Pilates!!! These disciplines have plenty of pelvic floor exercises to offer.



  • Watch the video below for 5 Simple and effective core exercises for pelvic floor muscles to do in the comfort of your home!



2. DIAPHRAGM


FUNCTION: The diaphragm separates the thoracic cavity (chest) from the abdominal cavity (belly) and sits at the bottom of the ribcage. It separates the lungs and the heart from the digestive organs.


It is also a passage for two of the most important blood vessels: the vena cava and aorta. Moreover, most importantly, together with the intercostal muscles of the rib cage, this core muscle does the breathing for us. Due to this muscle contracting and relaxing, we inhale and exhale oxygen!


EXERCISE OBJECTIVES: Train all of your "breathing" muscles to assist the diaphragm.


HOW TO STRENGTHEN THE DIAPHRAGM:


  • Stretch the muscles of the ribcage and abdominals. This will create more room inside the ribcage to accommodate the lungs and allow the diaphragm to relax during exhalation.


  • Practice deep 'abdominal' breathing to engage those deep core muscles situated below the diaphragm. When they are strong, they will assist the diaphragm during inhalation by pulling it towards the pelvis and away from the ribs. (Watch the video below and try now!)


  • Yin and restorative yoga are perfect for deep breathing and stretching!



3. INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL OBLIQUE MUSCLES


FUNCTION: The internal and external obliques are both muscles located in the abdominal regions. They are part of a group of flat muscles that make up the lateral abdominal wall. Both muscles flex the trunk laterally, protect internal organs of the abdomen area and assist the diaphragm at exhalation.


EXERCISE OBJECTIVES: Strengthen the muscle tissue and release and lengthen the fascia so that the three overlapping layers of muscles (transverse abdominals, internal oblique, rectus abdominis, and external obliques) can function well together and separately.


Certain massage techniques effectively release fascia, which is a great addition to core strengthening exercises, as it allows the muscles to contract more effectively.


HOW TO SELF-MASSAGE THE OBLIQUE MUSCLES:



4. ERECTOR SPINAE AND MULTIFIDUS


FUNCTION: The erector spinae and Multifidus are not actually located in the abdominal regions. In fact, they are part of the posterior back muscles and are located along the spine in the back of your body. They keep the lumbar spine upright and maintain the anatomically correct position of the vertebral column, preventing lower back pain.


EXERCISE OBJECTIVE: Aim for the golden middle between strength and flexibility. The openings between vertebrae are passages for important nerves and vessels. Therefore, if the postural spine muscles are hypertonic, compression can occur. We also want the spine to be flexible and allow maximum healthy movement.


HOW TO STRENGTHEN AND RELEASE ERECTOR SPINAE:


Swimming is a really great exercise to strengthen these core muscles. To release the erector spine and multifidus, try the self-release below. Or come to the clinic for a deep tissue massage, and we'll take care of it!



5. TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS


FUNCTION: The transversus abdominis is one of the deepest abdominal muscle in the abdominal region. It wraps around the entire core like a girdle. It is a core stabilizer. In fact, it provides thoracic and pelvic stability, besides trunk stability, thus strengthening the back and preventing lower back pain.


EXERCISE OBJECTIVES: Although finding ways to ‘feel’ those deepest muscles of the trunk muscle is difficult, learn to effectively engage them, as they can provide the most strength in weight lifting and weight-bearing of all the abdominal muscles.


HOW TO STRENGTHEN TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS:


The answer is a mixture of vinyasa yoga (especially the vinyasa part of it) and strategic weight lifting. Watch the video below to learn how to do a vinyasa flow—it only takes 5 minutes!





CORE STRENGTH AND LOWER BACK PAIN


Why Are Core Muscles So Important to Prevent Lower Back Pain?


Research shows that one of the leading causes of lower back pain is a weak core musculature. In fact, Core Fitness is essential to prevent lumbar strain. Here's why:


  • Support and Stability: Core muscles reduce stress on the lower back during everyday activities and exercise. Because they provide support to the spine, helping it maintain proper alignment.


  • Improved Posture: Weak core muscles can lead to slouching or poor posture, which puts extra strain on your lower back. Strong core muscles help you maintain good posture, reducing the risk of strain and pain.


  • Movement Efficiency: Core muscles are involved in transferring force throughout your body. So they reduce the risk of awkward movements that can strain your lower back.


  • Protection: Strong core muscles can help absorb some of the impact and stress on your lower back during lifting, bending, or twisting.


  • Balance: Core muscles play a role in balance. When your core is weak, you're more likely to lose balance and put extra strain on your lower back when trying to catch yourself.


What Can You Do to Keep Your Lower Back Strong and Healthy?


Try to maintain a balance of strength and flexibility between the lower back and the muscles in your abdominal regions. Let's see how:


Core Muscle Exercises


Core fitness exercises target the muscles in your torso, including your abs, obliques, and lower back, to improve stability, posture, and overall strength. They will help you build solid lumbar support gently and safely, promoting better posture and reducing stress on the lower back.


Try to include some of these exercises in your core fitness routine to strengthen your deep abdominal muscles and improve overall stability:


  • Plank: This classic exercise is a great way to target your entire core, including your abs, obliques, and lower back.

  • Bird Dog: This exercise challenges core stability and coordination and works your abs, obliques, and lower back muscles.

  • Side Plank: This plank variation targets your obliques and helps improve core stability and rotation.

  • Hollow Body Hold: This exercise is a great way to challenge your core stability and overall strength. It works your abs, obliques, lower back, shoulders, and hips.

  • Russian Twist: This exercise targets your obliques and helps to improve core rotation. Keep your knees bent


If you are short on time, you could try this super-effective core fitness workout on a vibration plate.



Stretching


While core and lower back exercises are fundamental and the only way to strengthen muscles, stretching and relaxing muscles that have become shortened due to 'bad posture' is also important. 


If you work out, remember to warm up your core with dynamic stretches to prepare your muscles for movement and improve your range of motion.


Make sure to try these 13 stretches for lower back pain to improve flexibility alongside your strengthening routine. And, if you're bored with solo stretching, you could also explore Couple stretches!


Massage


A 2011 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that weekly massage therapy for 10 weeks was as effective as medication and exercise in relieving pain and improving function. Plus, unlike some medications, massage offers a side-effect-free approach. The benefits were shown to last for up to 3 months after the massage sessions ended.


Massage therapy can effectively help loosen the core muscles and alleviate spasms and muscle soreness, which can lead to lower back pain & tightness. In fact, massage, alongside easy lifestyle precautions, can easily relieve back pain.


FEMALE THERAPIST DOING MASSAGE GLUTES STRETCHE

In my experience, a combination of Massage stretches, Deep tissue Massage techniques and Acupressure points on the glutes muscles relieve 90% of all lower back pain! But Cupping and gentler massage styles for back pain may be more appropriate for people not enjoying strong pressure.


As a massage therapist, I am passionate about assisting people with lower back pain problems. As I was born with a mild malformation of the spine (Scoliosis), which used to cause me severe lower back pain, I understand very well this type of discomfort and what to do to alleviate it. Massage therapy, yoga, and exercise have truly changed my approach to health, and I am here to help you and share with you how to get rid of this chronic physical discomfort for good! 


Remember to Always listen to your body!


Did you try any of the above core fitness exercises? Please share your experience below!

We hope you now understand the meaning behind core muscles, & why core strength is so important to prevent lower back pain.

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