Spicy Core Work to Strengthen & Stabilize Your Spine

Are you experiencing low back pain? Looking for an effective way to train your core? Want to improve your running stride? A weak core impacts everyday life more than you think. Even basic functional movements - like getting out of bed or walking - start to feel challenging as your core muscles weaken. Weak abdominal muscles force other areas of the body to compensate in order to keep you upright.

Whether you're an average Jane or an athlete, core strengthening exercises are important for the health of your back and maintenance of your postural alignment. For anyone seeking relief from low back pain, strengthening your core muscles will alleviate tension in the back and help support your spine's natural alignment.

Your core is much more than your abdominals. It also includes the gluteal muscles (in the butt and hips), lats and traps (in the middle and upper back) and the erector spine muscles (around your spine). All of these muscles, not your abs, are primarily responsible for keeping you upright and stable.

Reclined Bird Dog - or Dead Bug - is a spicy ground-based exercise that targets strength-building in the lower abdominals, obliques and hip flexors. Additional strength work occurs in the lower back and shoulders while coordinating alternate movements of opposite limbs exercises the right and left hemisphere of the brain. Performing Dead Bug as a part of your regular exercise routine translates to developing the stabilizing muscles of the core and along the spine that help protect your lower back.

Once you master Dead Bug you’ll have prepared your abs to fire properly during other ab-strengthening exercises. Dead Bug prepares you for dynamic motions, including running. When running with proper form, your upper body’s slight forward tilt is supported by a stable torso that gives with slight rotation as you coordinate your stride as your arms and legs move. Dead Bug gives you practice at trunk stability during movement.

Even if you're not a runner, Dead Bug is great for beginners and advanced exercisers alike. If you are just starting an abs routine, this exercise can be better than performing Plank Pose because here you are not supporting your bodyweight, as in Plank, where the tendency can be for the shoulders to take on more work than the core. With Dead Bug, it’s completely core-focused.

Start reclined on your back with your feet flat and heels in towards your sits-bones. Tighten and hold in your abdominal muscles and slightly turn your pelvis up as the space in the small of your back disappears. Lift your knees over your hips and stretch your arms toward the ceiling, keeping your shoulder blades broad and connected to the floor. Your focus as you move is to breathe while you maintain this hold of the abdominal muscles, in order to keep your lumbar spine flat against the floor. Keeping your core stable, take a deep inhalation and then exhale to a four-count as you lengthen your right leg out long and left arm either overhead or out to the side in line with your shoulder. These movements occur simultaneously. A deep inhalation to a four-count lifts the leg and arm to their starting position. Then the second side - your right leg extends long and left arm overhead (or out to the side) as you exhale to a four-count, then inhale to a four-count as you lift your limbs to return to the Dead Bug position.

Take five reps per side. You can increase your reps per side as you build endurance over time. To exit, draw both knees into your chest, then place the feet back onto the floor and enjoy the sensations in your core!

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