Core Strengthening – Part One


As a physiotherapist, I spend a lot of my time teaching core exercises to patients. What I would like to discuss today is what not to do as some of my patients are doing old fashioned and sometimes very harmful exercises that they think are strengthening their back or their core.

Here is my list of what not to do and why:

1. Full Sit ups (both straight leg and bent knee) – these used to pretty well be the only exercise that we used to do for abdominal strengthening, but they have were tossed out by researchers in 1997. Why? The research showed that one full sit up caused compression at the limit suggested by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and that doing these exercises repeatedly put the spine at greater risk for injury. We also know, that past 45 degrees of sitting up, the psoas muscle is the one that is working and that puts a tremendous compressive force on the low back and its discs. 


2. Leg raises or any variation of – These exercises cause even higher activation of the psoas muscle than full sit ups so the compressive force to the spine and its’ discs goes beyond safe limits.

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3. Supermans – This is the worst of the worst as it causes 6,000N (more than twice the limit) of compression to the spine. This exercise should not be done in any form. I have a patient who was doing these regularly in her yoga class only to develop a severe twitch of her L foot while doing them because she was causing compression to the nerve to some of the muscles of that foot.


Stay tuned for next week’s blog when I discuss the safe and effective exercises to do for your core.

Suzie Foreman is a registered physiotherapist with over 30 years of experience in Orthopaedics and Sports Physiotherapy. She currently practices in downtown

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