NOTE: Please Read The Disclaimer at the bottom of this page BEFORE performing any stretches!
Having proper stability for your spine is very important in relieving and preventing back pain. The number one factor for achieving that is strong abdominal muscles. Pressure on the discs in the spine can often lead to problems such as a herniated, bulging, or degenerated disc. However, by properly training the abdominal muscles, pressure on the discs can be lessened so that the spine can stabilize, and that can help to eliminate the cause of the back pain!
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Here are some simple stretches and exercises that can be done at home to strengthen the abdominals. It is important to perform these activities properly, so do not push yourself to hard and progress through the stretches slowly.
Stretch #1 - Bracing
The first step in strengthening the abdominal wall is called bracing. It is actually quite simple. It simply involves flexing your abdominal muscles. Imagine someone was going to push or hit you in that area. Your natural reaction would be to tighten your "core" by flexing those muscles to protect yourself. This is what we refer to as bracing.
Stretch #2 - Trunk Curl-Up
Now that we know how to brace the abdominal muscles, the next stretch is the Trunk Curl-Up:
- Lay on your back on the floor, with one leg straight and the other bent at the knee with the foot on the floor.
- Place your hands under the small of your lower back with your palms down.
- Brace your core. Do not hold your breath.
- Slowly lift your upper back up until your shoulder blades are off the floor, but make sure your hands are not. Keep your elbows on the floor. Avoid flexing your neck, jutting your chin out, or rounding your back.
- Once your trunk is raised, hold the position while bracing your abdominals at the same time. Breathe normally for five seconds, then return to the resting position. Repeat this 12 times.
- For advanced training, lift your elbows off the floor as well, and add more repetitions.
Stretch #3 - Dead Bug
This next step in the progression of these abdominal stretches is a little more difficult. The purpose of the stretch is to maintain bracing the abdominals while moving your arms and legs. By doing this you can obtain a higher level of control and stability.
- Lay on your back on the floor once again, with one leg straight and the other bent at the knee with the foot on the floor.
- Place the hand that is on the opposite side of the bent leg palm down beneath the small of your lower back.
- Stretch the arm on the same side as the bent leg straight out above your head and lay it on the floor.
- Tighten your core by bracing the abdominals
- Slowly lift both the arm and leg that are straight and draw them in so that they meet above the abdomen. The leg that is already bent and the opposite arm do not move.
- Return to the rest position. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
Begin the same as the beginner level, except lift up the bent leg so that the foot is no longer on the floor.
Then do the rest of the stretch the same as before. Add more repetitions if you feel you can handle it.
At the start, lift both legs so they line up together with your knees at a 90 degree angle. Lift both arms straight up into the air and brace your abdominals. Begin by tapping one knee with the opposite arm, and then extend them straight out before returning to the starting position.
Then do the same with the other arm and leg. Repeat 8 to 12 times. Make sure to go slow so that you do not hurt your back.
The Illinois Back Institute is dedicated to educating people, because we know that the more that you understand about your problem, the more likely you are to eliminate it.
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