What Are Core Exercises?

Core exercises can stabilize the lumbar spine. Low back pain can often occur with people that have weak core muscles. The “core” is commonly thought of as the abdominal muscles. A more comprehensive definition involves thinking of the core as a cylinder like a soda can.A cylinder has a front, sides, back, top and bottom:

  • front: abdominal muscles
    • the superficial 6-pack muscle (rectus abdominis),
    • a deeper abdominal muscle that supports the spine (transversus abdominis)
  • sides: obliques
  • back: muscles that control large movements (paraspinals) and small movements (multifidi)
  • top: breathing muscle (diaphragm)
  • bottom: muscles of the pelvic floor

Exercise for the Core

Research has demonstrated that people have less low back pain when they have a strong local control of the front (transversus abdominis) and back (multifidi). There are specific training methods to teach patients how to perform core exercises (see Best Core Exercise for Abdominal Control).

In some cases, it takes more than one treatment session for the patient to activate the targeted muscles. In addition, a patient’s increased body awareness will assist in the control of the muscle. Once the basic muscle activation is achieved, more complex exercises can then be layered upon that basic muscle activation.