Opposite Arm/Leg Lift
The latest research on training the abdominal and back (core) muscles centers around core stability, instead of core strength. When building a proper core training program, begin first with stability; then once stability is gained, focus on building strength.
Core stability training begins with the intrinsic stability muscles of the spine. (Not the large abdominal muscles.) The main intrinsic stability muscle I will address today is the multifidi, a small muscle that attaches to each spinal segment whose main job is to provide stability to the lumbar spine. It provides support to help balance out the pull of the obliques and keep the spine straight. If the multifidi do not fire when stress is placed on the core, the obliques will put a forward flexion bias to the spine, leaving the back vulnerable to injury. A forward flexion bias has been shown to increase the risk of a disk herniation. Studies have also shown that when an episode of back pain occurs, the multifidi shut down and stop working, leaving the back vulnerable to reinjury. It is crucial to get this muscle firing to support the back, and one of the best ways to do that is through this simple stability exercise.
- Start on your hands and knees (make sure to kneel on a soft surface) with your knees directly under your hips and your hands directly under your shoulders.
- Think about bracing through your stomach, and then slowly lift your opposite arm and leg a few inches.
- Repeat 10 times, then switch to the other side.
- Do not let your hand or knee touch the ground during the set of 10. Make sure not to shift, move or bend while lifting. Pretend you have a full cup of water on your back and don’t want to spill a drop.
- Do not hunch, make sure you maintain the proper curves in your spine.
For an added increase in difficulty, lift the foot of the supporting leg.
For an even harder version, try the exercise from a push up position. The same rules apply, no shifting or moving during the exercise.
Always consult your physician before starting an exercise program.