Core Strengthening

A Patient Guide to Core Strengthening

Frank Gilroy- Bsc MCSP

Stephen Reid- Student Physiotherpist

Antatomy of the core

The Core is made up of a group of muscles; Transverse Abdominis, Rectus Abdominis, External Abdominal Oblique and Internal Abdominal Oblique – which can be seen in the diagram below.

These core muscles are vital in helping to keep the body balanced and stable and to minimise the load put through other joints.

Remember that your Glutes and Back muscles also help to stabilize your body too!

Common reasons for core weakness

Poor Posture
-Lower cross syndrome
-Upper cross syndrome

Surgeries
-All hip and knee surgeries
-All surgeries around the core area

Trauma
-Abdominal strain/ tear after childbirth
-Injuries to your back

Inactivity

Physiotherapy and Prevention

It is important that the core muscles stay strong in order to:

  • Carry out everyday tasks
  • Prevent injuries
  • Allow good movement
  • Stay balanced

Before you begin to strengthen, your core muscles must be able to move freely to build up to full strength. A couple of simple stretching exercises have been included in this handout, which are to be used before and after completing the strengthening exercises.

WEAKNESS > RANGE OF MOVEMENT > STRENGTHEN > FULL POWER

Simple Stretches

Stretches are important before exercising, which helps to prevent injury and tightness.
Each stretch should be held for around 30 secs and completed before each set of exercises.

1. Front stretch

While standing clasp your hands and lift them over your head

Once you feel a stretch hold that position

2. Side stretch

While standing lift one arm over your head towards the opposite shoulder 

Once you feel a stretch hold that position

Phase 1

Make sure you are supervised by your therapist when completing your exercises for the first time. Complete each exercise until your muscles feel tired 2 times per day 5 days a week
Once you can hold each exercise comfortably for more than a minute move onto the next phase

 1. Bridge

Lie on your back with your knees bent

Flatten the small of your back into the ground and lift your hips up by pushing through your heels

Focus on keeping a straight alignment

2. Plank

Start on your knees and forearms

Straighten out your legs to take the weight through forearms and feet

Focus on tightening your core muscles to keep your back straight

3. Side Plank

Start side lying with legs straight

Place your elbow directly under your shoulder to prop up your torso

Focus on keeping your body in a straight alignment

Phase 2

Complete each exercise until your muscles feel tired 2 times per day 5 days a week. Once you can hold each exercise comfortably for more than a minute move onto the next phase

1. One-legged Plank

Begin a normal plank

Lift one leg straight in a controlled movement and hold it

Focus on keeping your hips level with each other

2. One-legged Side Plank

Begin a normal side plank

Lift your top leg up in a controlled movement and hold it

3. One-legged Bridge

While keeping one leg straight perform a bridge

Focus on keeping your hips level with each other

Phase 3

Complete each exercise until your muscles feel tired 2 times per day 5 days a week. Once you can hold each exercise comfortably for more than a minute move onto the next phase

1. One-legged Plank with Band

Attach a theraband to something stable and wrap it around your thighs. Perform a single leg plank

2. One-legged Side Plank with Band

Wrap a theraband around your ankles. Perform a single leg side plank

3. One-legged Bridge with Band

Attach a theraband to something stable and wrap it around your thigh which is planted. Perform a single leg bridge

FITT Principles and Evidence Base

F.I.T.T principles play a vital role when constructing a strengthening program in order to target the treatment goals for the patient. They consist of:

Frequency – How often the exercise is completed 

Intensity – How hard the patient is working 

Time – How long the session lasts

Type – What exercise is being completed

(Waehner, 2014).

Through the use of literature research, strength training has been proven to be beneficial for adults exercising 3-5 times per week. The study concluded that 3 sessions of strength training per week were more beneficial compared to once per week. However, these findings were only found in the short time, which may suggest that in the adult population there is a threshold of strength training. (Murlasits, 2012).

Cinar et al (2015), found that postural stability scores increased with core stability exercises included in rehab programs for patients with ACL reconstructions.

Wen-dien Chang et al (2015, concluded that core strength training is also effective in alleviating low back pain in chronic patients.

Willardson (2007), found that stability of the core is crucial to provide a foundation for movement of the upper and lower extremities, to support loads and to protect the spinal cord and roots.

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