Stabilize Your Core with these Fun-damental Moves
These moves are fun and fundamental for proper core stabilization. They are fundamental because they form a necessary base or core foundation (pun intended).
Core stabilization happens through breathing, bracing, and creating intra-abdominal pressure. It's a safe way for the core muscles to learn how to stabilize the lumbar spine and hips.
Furthermore, if your belly is protruding and looks bloated, chances are your deep core muscles are weak. You may also be experiencing low back pain if your hips are tilted anteriorly. I covered low back pain in my previous article where we left off talking about the core, so here we are today.
Find my last article here: 3 Easy Steps to Relieve Low Back Pain.
Obviously, nutrition plays a huge part in having a flat belly, but this alone won’t give you definition and more importantly, stabilization. Try these fundamental moves while having fun!
The Fundamental Moves
1. Inhale deeply.
2. Exhale all the air.
3. Fake inhale like your just plunged into cold water, driving the belly button back towards the spine and up towards the diaphragm.
4. Hold with no air for 5 – 30 seconds.
5. Do 3-5 rounds, best performed in the morning on an empty stomach. (One of my personal favorites).
Contraindications: if you’re a beginner start lying, seated or kneeling, and watch for dizziness. Avoid while pregnant, on your period, if you have a hernia or stomach ulcers.
The Big 3
Dr. Stuart McGill, professor and researcher of the spine, found these three specific exercises to be most efficient to address core strength without placing excessive stresses on the spine. This group of exercises has famously become known as ‘The Big 3’ or ‘McGill Big 3’ which include the curl-up, the side-plank, and the bird-dog.
1. Curl-Up: This will be performed one leg at a time. Lying down on your back with one knee bent and the other straight. Place your hands under your low back for support. Pick your head up off the ground, only a few inches, simply feel the belly button go towards the spine. Hold for 10 seconds, then relax your head down and switch legs. Do each leg 3 times.
2. Side-Plank: To be performed on your knees. Lying down on your side with your legs bent and upper body supported by your hand or elbow. Place your top hand on your opposite hip or head. Then using the side of your core and hips, raise your hips to the sky. Hold this position for 10 seconds before returning down. Switch to the other side and repeat 3 times on each side.
You can always progress this half side-plank by moving into a full side-plank, where your knees are straight and now your bodyweight is supported by your feet, and the hand/elbow remains the same. Your feet during the full side plank should be one foot placed in front of the other, and the upper body should be in-line with the hips during both variations.
3. Bird-Dog: To be performed on all 4’s in a tabletop position. Make sure your back is in a neutral alignment, no arching or rounding. Stabilize your core so the spine doesn’t move while kicking one leg backwards and raising the opposite arm forward, until both opposite arm and leg are fully straight. Think about going in opposite directions while holding to create length. Hold the pose for 10 seconds, then return to the tabletop position, and switch to the other leg and arm. Repeat 3 – 5 times.
You can technically progress this exercise by adding repetitions or weights, but time and time again Dr. McGill has repeated not to. I even heard him say it live when I attended his presentation at The Fascia Research Congress in Montreal that no athlete is above the basic bird-dog. They would ask him why… And the reason is because we simply want core activation, not stress.
Creating a healthy stiffness in the spine by stabilizing the core, eliminates micromovements that lead to pain, tissue degeneration, and injury.
More benefits from performing these fundamental moves:
Engaged deep abdominals
Cleansing/Detoxifying of the digestive system
The combination of these exercises, The Vacuum Belly and The Big 3 should be safely performed daily if you are trying to recover from back injury, prevent the injury from returning, making your core stronger, and/or achieving a tighter waistline. Try them and have fun with them!
On a final note, whenever pain or injury has occurred in the spine, you can get some form of bodywork for help, like massage therapy.