Core Exercises (Care of the Young Athlete)

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Core exercises strengthen the muscles of the
spine, abdomen, and pelvis. These muscles support all physical activity.

General guidelines

  • Core exercises should not be painful.
    When pain develops, exercises may need to be modified or exercises even
    may need to be stopped. In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain
    further professional consultation if symptoms persist.

  • When core exercises are being done to
    help with sports performance or injury prevention, it may be necessary
    to start with very simple exercises and progress to more challenging
    exercises only when proper exercise techniques have been
    established.

  • When core exercises are being done to
    treat a back injury, it is helpful to get specific recommendations from
    your doctor or physical therapist before proceeding.

  • Regular breathing patterns should be
    maintained during core strengthening exercises—even if many of
    the exercises require contracting and holding the muscles in one
    position. Breath-holding can increase blood pressure and decrease the
    intended strength gains in the muscles.

  • Core strength helps maintain the spine,
    hips, and pelvis in a neutral position—even when the arms or legs
    are moving. Again, a trained therapist can help provide feedback as to
    the adequacy of maintaining a neutral spine. It may also be possible for
    the athlete (patient) to sense abnormal movement by placing their hand
    on the back of the pelvis and sacrum during a stabilization
    exercise.

  • One of the most basic core exercises
    involves a low intensity contraction of the pelvic floor in what is
    known as a Kegel exercise. This involves tightening the same muscles
    used to stop the flow of urine. Contracting muscles that gently hollow
    or draw in the abdominal area below the belly button is also a
    prerequisite for the proper use of other muscles that help stabilize the
    spine.

Examples of core exercises

  • Lie on your back with both knees bent
    and feet flat on the floor. Place your right and left hands on the floor
    with arms extended and palms facing the floor.

  • Lift your buttocks 1 to 2 inches off the
    floor and hold this position.

  • Keep your pelvis level and still as you
    slowly straighten a knee. Only your knee should move. Your thighs should
    remain still.

  • Lower your leg to the starting position
    and then repeat on the other side. Perform 10 repetitions on each leg,
    alternating between left and right sides.

  • Lie face down on the floor with your
    arms extended forward.

  • Lift your left arm and right leg off the
    ground. Tighten your abdominal muscles before lifting arms and legs.

  • Hold for 1 to 3 seconds then relax.

  • Lift your right arm and left leg off the
    ground. Again tighten your abdominal muscles before initiating.

  • Hold for 1 to 3 seconds then relax.

  • Repeat. Perform 10 repetitions for steps
    2 and 3, and 10 repetitions for steps 4 and 5.

  • Lie on your side in a semi-fetal
    position. Both hips and knees should be bent to about 45 degrees. Your
    back should be straight, and hips and shoulders should be at a right
    angle to the floor (straight up and down).

  • Place your top hand on your pelvis to
    make sure the pelvis does not move.

  • Keep your pelvis, low back, and
    shoulders still, and your heels together, as you slowly raise your top
    knee toward the ceiling. Only move as far as you are able without
    letting your pelvis, low back, or shoulders move, then return to the
    starting position.

  • Perform 10 repetitions on one leg, then
    10 repetitions on the opposite leg.