BACK in Action: Strengthen Your Core and Avoid Back Pain

First things first… what is your core?

Your core is a chain comprised of countless muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments. A lot of us can become fixated on getting flat abs, and there’s nothing wrong with having that goal… but it’s important to realize that only focusing on your abs can actually be counterproductive to reaching that flat-ab goal that you have.

Instead of doing a million crunches to get your abs, the best thing you can do is work your core the way it’s designed to work, which is to create stabilization throughout your torso and lower back.

Working your core in a way that promotes stabilization of the spine will help eliminate back pain and improve your overall movement and joint health while also helping those abs look good.

Let’s break it down…

For all intents and purposes, your core is made up of four different “regions”. Your abdominals, obliques, lower back, and glutes.

Each of those four regions is comprised of a bunch of different muscles, but for simplicities sake, I’ll just refer to the regions throughout this post.


Photo Credit:

  1. The abdominals are what we think of when we say abs. These are the muscles in the front of your body that make up the “six-pack”

  2. Your abdominals are responsible for stabilizing the front of your core and creating intraabdominal pressure to protect your spine.


Photo Credit:

  1. Your obliques are the portions of your core on the sides of your body below the ribs.

  2. Responsible for stabilizing the sides of your core and preventing unnecessary twisting. Also known as “anti-rotation”.

Lower Back

Photo Credit:

  1. As the name suggests, your lower back is comprised of the muscles opposite your abdominals on your backside.

  2. They are responsible for stabilizing the back of your core and ensuring that your spine stays in line. Your lower back is connected to your glutes.


Photo Credit:

  1. This is your butt! Yes these muscles are an important aspect of your core.

  2. While your lower back is meant to stabilize your spine and lower back, the glutes are responsible for extending the hips, allowing you to bend over without putting too much strain on your lower back.

How do you work each of these regions?

As mentioned above, each region has a specific responsibility in how it impacts your bodily movement.

  1. Abdominals need to be stabilized.

    1. Do exercises like planks, bear planks, and bracing during squats.

  1. Do not do exercises that force you to bend your spine like crunches and sit-ups.

  1. Obliques need to be worked in an anti-rotational way where they are strong in resisting the twisting of the torse.

    1. Do exercises like side planks and suitcase carries that force you to resist that twist while keeping your spine in line.

    2. Do not do exercises like Russian twists that work the obliques but also grind your spine.

  2. The Lower Back needs to be stable stable stable… and did I mention stable?

    1. Do exercises like planks and farmer’s carries. They are great for stabilizing the lower back.

    2. Do not do anything that rounds your back under load as this places increased stress on your lower back and spine.

  3. The Glutes are responsible for moving the hips forward in hip extension.

    1. Do exercises like RDLs, Bridges, and Sandbell Swings. They are great for working the glutes. The key is to work the glutes while keeping everything else stable.

    2. Do not do glute exercises that overextend the hips and put your back at risk.

Wrapping it up…

You want to Incorporate a well-rounded core exercise approach to truly strengthen your core. It should include plank variations, carry variations, and deadlift variations all done while bracing your core. This will give you the best results because not only will it strengthen the abdominal region of your core, but it will also strengthen the other three regions which will help make you stronger, and fitter, and prevent injury.

If you know you need to work on strengthening your core, but you’re not sure how to… you’re in luck!

BACK in Action: Core Bracing Workshop feat. Dr. Josh Funk, DPT

On May 13th @ 10:00 am, Dr. Josh Funk of Rehab2Perform will be running a workshop here at Progressive Athletics. During the workshop, you can expect to participate in interactive exercises and demonstrations to help you practice your newfound skills. You’ll also learn about the common mistakes people make when bracing their core and how to avoid them.

To learn more and register head to our Registration Page.