Core Conditioning Exercises (lower back / abdominal)

Core conditioning / strengthening exercises work best when the the muscles at the front and the back of the torso contract simultaneously. Correct bracing of the abdominals by pulling in the navel towards the spine is necessary while performing the exercises to protect the back.  This action engages the transverse abdominus and should be performed whilst breathing normally.

Some of the best exercises for core conditioning are featured below:

Bicycle Crunch:

The Bicycle Crunch Exercise came in at Number One in research performed to find the best exercises for the rectus abdominus muscle.  The beauty of this exercise is that you can perform it at home or in the gym, you only need a mat to lie on to help prevent your spine from becoming sore!

  1. Lie on the floor on your back, engage your transverse abdominus muscles by pulling them in from your navel to your spine.
  2. Place your hands behind your head and raise both knees, feet should be off the floor.
  3. Begin slowly.  Stretch one leg out and bring up the elbow on the same side to touch the opposite knee.
  4. You are aiming for a pedalling motion, with a twisting motion at the centre of your core.
  5. Breathe evenly throughout and aim for a smooth movement as you switch legs.

Reverse crunches:

Another great exercise to strengthen the transverse abdominus. To do it correctly the hips are lifted only a few centimetres off the floor.  You will feel your lower abdominals working when it is performed properly. Focus on using only your core to avoid straining your neck and pause briefly after each rep to cancel out momentum in the legs.

  1. Lie on the floor on your back, engage your transverse abdominus muscles by pulling them in from your navel to your spine.
  2. Bend the knees towards the chest at a 90 degree angle.  You can either place your feet side by side or cross them at the ankles.
  3. Squeeze / contract your abdominals to lift your hips off the floor, raising your legs upwards.
  4. Beginners can perform 8-12 reps, but increase reps as you develop strength.
  5. Exhale as you lift and inhale as you lower.

Plank:

The Plank is an excellent exercise to work the abdominal and back muscles simultaneously.  It also helps to strengthen the stabiliser muscles and is a great all round abdominal workout to help you perform other exercises such as push ups.

  1. Turn onto your belly and place your upper body weight onto your forearms. Turn your palms face down.
  2. Lift up onto your toes, keeping the angle of your arms at 90 degrees and rest on your elbows.
  3. You can either hold your hands together or leave them apart.
  4. Resist the urge to arch your back upwards, instead keep it in a straight line.
  5. If you feel your abdominals heading towards the floor, squeeze them to keep your back straight.
  6. Hold it for as long as you can.

Medicine Ball Throwing:

To begin, stand with the legs at least hip width apart.  Hold the medicine ball with both hands.

The Strongman Toss involves squatting down deep with the ball between your legs, then exploding upwards, releasing the ball high into the air. It helps to build power in the hips.

You can add a chest press movement into the exercise while extending the hips from the squat position. Perform 5 sets of 5-8 reps.