Increasing your core stability means making the
muscles of your
trunk stronger to keep your spine and body stable. This helps you
stay balanced when you move.
Core stability benefits everyone, from older people to top
How can I increase my core strength and stability?
Core stability exercises are easy to do. It's more important that you do them well than
that you do a lot of them. That's why it's a good idea to have a physical
therapist check to
be sure you have learned to use the right muscles and breathe normally while
you do the exercises.
When you do any core stability exercise, it's important to make sure:
- You are breathing right. When you exercise, you should breathe mostly with your diaphragm, the
large muscle that helps move air in and out of your lungs. To learn to breathe
with your diaphragm:
- Lie down on your back and put your hand on your stomach.
- When you breathe in and out, your hand should move up and down. Notice how it
feels to breathe this way.
- When you start to exercise, try to get the same
feeling of your chest and belly moving in and out as you breathe, rather than
your chest and shoulders moving up toward your neck and back down.
- You find your neutral spine. Neutral spine is the
name for posture that maintains the
three normal curves in your spine—one in your neck, one in your upper back,
and one in your lower back. Your
spine should be in this neutral position when you do core stability exercises. It
may seem more relaxing to let yourself slump down. But when you lose the normal
curves of a neutral spine, you actually put more stress on your body. To find your neutral spine:
- Stand in front of a mirror with your
hands on your hips. Allow your low back to
arch so your stomach juts forward, and your buttocks stick out. Notice how your
hands rotate forward.
- Tighten the muscles around your stomach and
buttocks so your low back becomes very flat. Notice how your hands rotate
- Now go halfway between the forward and back
- Keeping your pelvis in this neutral position, stand tall
with your ears and shoulders lined up over your hips.
finding this neutral spine in three positions: standing, sitting, and lying on your
back with your knees bent. When you can do that, you can maintain good posture for daily activities and for exercise.
Two simple exercises to try
Pulling your belly in
You can do this exercise anywhere, in any
position. Try it while you work at your desk, drive, or stand waiting for your
turn at the drugstore.
- Pull in your belly and imagine pulling your belly button back toward
your spine. Remember to keep your neutral spine while you do this—don't let
your back bend forward.
- Hold this for about 6 seconds. Remember to keep breathing normally.
for up to 10 seconds.
- Repeat 8 to 12 times.
- Lie on
your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Find your
neutral spine position, and hold it during the exercise. Pull in your belly, as in the exercise above.
- Push with your feet and raise your buttocks up a few
- Hold about 6 seconds. Remember to breathe normally.
- Lower yourself slowly to the floor and rest for up to 10 seconds.
- Repeat 8
to 12 times.
you have mastered these simple exercises, your physical therapist can help you find more challenging ways to work on your trunk
muscles. For example, you might do some activities while standing up, then do
the same activities while sitting on a large ball called a Swiss ball. The ball
makes it harder for you to keep your balance as you do the activity.
Return to Fitness: Increasing Core Stability
Other Works Consulted
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Leetun DT, et al. (2004). Core stability measures as
risk factors for lower extremity injury in athletes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 36(6): 926–934.
Marshall PW, et al. (2005). Core stability exercises
on and off a Swiss ball. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 86(2): 242–249.
Negrini S, et al. (2010). Rehabilitation of lumbar spine disorders: An evidence-based clinical practice approach. In WR Frontera et al., eds., DeLisa's Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Principles and Practice, 5th ed., vol. 1, pp. 837–882. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.