Top 3 Core Strengthening Moves

Low back pain is a problem frequently encountered by people of all ages.

I have been lucky, and thus far have not experienced any back pain myself, but my older brother has. He developed a bulging disc my first year of PT school. He lives out of state but would call me once a week for exercises that would help with his pain. He initially started with stretches and pain management techniques and when his pain was controlled, I told him he needed to strengthen his core to protect his back. Every few weeks I would send him new exercises, and these were some of my go-to moves.

Related: The Most Important Exercise You Can Do

A recent study looked at common core strengthening exercises to determine which ones demonstrated the highest level of muscle activation for a variety of core muscles. The following list demonstrates the exercises where you will get the biggest bang for your buck.

  • Elbow and toe with contralateral arm and leg lift:

    • Get into a prone position, propping up on your toes and elbows, keeping your spine in a neutral straight line.
    • Lift your right arm and extending your left leg.
    • This exercise can also be performed with the combination of the left arm and right leg.

Elbow and toe with contralateral arm and leg lift

(A starting step to the elbow toe with contralateral leg and arm lift is a bird dog)

Bird Dog

  • Bridge:

    • Start in a supine position, with knees flexed to 90 degrees and hips to 45 degrees so your feet are flat on the table.
    • Push through your feet and extend your hips, raising your bottom off the table.
    • There should be a straight line from your knees to your hips.

Bridge 01 Bridge 02

  • Abdominal draw in maneuver:

    • Start in a supine position with your knees and hips flexed, so that feet are flat on the table.
    • Draw your belly button towards your spine.
    • Hold for five seconds and relax.

While completing these exercises it is important to pay attention to your breathing, as the diaphragm plays an important role in spinal stabilization. Try to exhale through the exertion/hard phase of the exercise and inhale during the easier phase.

For years physical therapy has been utilized to help treat the pain by increasing the strength and stability of surrounding muscles. Core strengthening exercises have been shown to be effective in not just treating disorders of the lumbar spine but also improving athletic performance.

Related: Why Sciatica is a Pain in the Butt

If you have more questions about how to strengthen your core please feel free to contact me at and take advantage of a free pain consultation over at our Portland clinic.

Kristin O'Kelly

By Kristin O’Kelly, DPT

Back in Motion Physical Therapy – Portland, Maine

Learn More About
Blog | PT Healthy Tips

Wrist Pain

Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

Related Articles 

Sorry, No Posts Found