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
professional athletes.

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 mostly breathe with your diaphragm, the
    large muscle that helps move air in and out of your lungs. To learn to breathe
    with your diaphragm:

    1. Lie on your back, or prop yourself up on several pillows.
    2. Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
    3. When you breathe in, push your belly out as far as possible. You
      should feel the hand on your belly move out, while the hand on your chest does
      not move.
    4. When you breathe out, you should feel the hand on your belly move in.
    5. 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:

    1. 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.
    2. Tighten the muscles around your stomach and
      buttocks so your low back becomes very flat. Notice how your hands rotate
    3. Now go halfway between the forward and back
    4. Keeping your pelvis in this neutral position, stand tall
      with your ears and shoulders lined up over your hips.
    5. Practice
      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.

  1. 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.
  2. Hold this for about 6 seconds. Remember to keep breathing normally.
  3. Rest
    for up to 10 seconds.
  4. Repeat 8 to 12 times.

Floor bridge

The bridging exercise works the muscles around your lower body and hips. Do not continue with this exercise if it causes pain.

  1. Lie on
    your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Your knees should be bent about 90 degrees.
  2. Find your
    neutral spine position. You will hold it during the exercise.
  3. Tighten your belly muscles by pulling in your belly button toward your spine.
  4. Then push your heels into the floor, squeeze your buttocks, and lift your hips off the floor until your shoulders, hips, and knees are all in a straight line.
  5. Hold about 6 seconds. Remember to breathe normally.
  6. Lower yourself slowly to the floor and rest for up to 10 seconds.
  7. 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.


Other Works Consulted

  • Dillin W, et al. (2010). Thoracolumbar spine injuries in the adult. In JC DeLee et al., eds., DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine, 3rd ed., vol. 1, pp. 714-753. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
  • 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.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Elizabeth T. Russo, MD – Internal Medicine

Current as ofMarch 13, 2017