Top 5 exercises for a stronger core

Updated: May 5

" What's the best exercise i can do to strengthen my core ?"

This is not an uncommon question that we get in the clinic wether its from clients that have back pain or just want to prevent against issues with their back.

The answer is really dependant on what you need to do and make it specific to your needs. However there are some very good exercises that can get you on the right path.

Welcome to the McGill big 4, plus the most important exercise you'll do.

Stuart McGill is a biomechanisit who has researched back pain and muscle activity extensively through the past few decades. Working with everyone from your weekend gardening warrior to international atheltes in various sports including the strongman competitors he has compiled a few basic "must do exercises".

These exercises recruit the core and teach great movement skills without putting stress on the back. Really thats a triple win situation and if its good enough for a strongman its got to be good enough for you ?

So lets get cracking.

Lets start at the front with the abdominals.

Curl ups

Here is the entry level exercise for the abdominals. You'll be surprised at how hard this can get.

How to do it:

  • Lie flat on the ground with hands under your low back.

  • Flatten the lumbar spine.

  • Keep everything still from the pelvis to the sternum (breast bone)

  • Slowly curl up round the sternum

  • Pause at the top and slowly lower down.

  • Don't let the low back move, try and keep a constant pressure on the hands.

Then onto the back with the extensors.

Its time for the bird dog. why's it called bird dog you ask ? well apparently its to do with the dog that hunts rabbits in bugs bunny cartoons ! i digress.

How to do it:

  • Go in all fours, keep equal weight between hands and knees.

  • Think about pushing one leg back leading with the heel and push the opposite arm out in front of you. I like to imagine pushing my knee along the floor as long as possible.

  • The key is to keep your weight central and not shift it onto the supporting leg.

  • Pause then come back to the middle.

Don't forget the sides.

This counts as 2 exercises , (remember left and right side).

  • Lie on your side

  • Elbow directly under your shoulder

  • Opposite hand pulls down into the shoulder.

  • Top leg infront and bottom leg behind.

  • Lift hips off the floor and pause.

Last but not least the most important core exercise you will ever do

Thats right its the one you do consistently, just like anything else.

Putting it all together

A few rules;

  • Never sacrifice technique for fatigue.

  • Always maintain a " neutral posture" which means try and keep the chest up and pelvis slightly tilted under.

  • Start with doing each exercise for 8-12 reps, add 2 reps per week until you can do 20.

  • When you can do that we need to change it up.

  • Exercise should never worsen symptoms , if it does stop and get in touch to make sure its the right one for you.

We recommend doing these exercises 3-4 times per week. You can do it as a circut by going from one to the next and repeating it 3-4 times. Or just crank out 3-4 sets before going to the next exercise.

This is a very good basic no nonsense core program that we have used successfully with alot of our clients that have back pain or just wanting to get a stronger core. Once you mastered this we can easily progress this to challenge you more and on getting you fitter and stronger.

Enjoy and if you need a further challenge feel free to call the team at Arana Hills Physio and we will be happy to oblige.



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