Complete Guide to Core Exercises for Seniors
Stop the crunches! If you truly want to improve your core’s strength and stability the following core exercises for seniors are meant for you.
Written by: Coach Todd
Many times, when performing exercises, you’re told to “brace our core” — but what is that?
The most popular core muscle, the Rectus Abdominis, is commonly confused as being the entire core. However, it’s just a piece. The Rectus Abdominis sits on the front of the stomach, creating that six-pack look many are familiar with, but the entire core is much more extensive:
The Pelvic Floor Muscles
A web of muscles which acts like a basket holding up some very important organs: the bladder, the intestine, and for women the uterus.
Buried beneath other abdominal muscles, this thick muscle wraps around your abdomen and serves as a girdle to keep your heart strong and balanced.
A group of short, thick, triangular muscles that run along the spine for stabilization.
Internal and External Obliques
A large, thin muscle sheet located at the sides of the abdomen working to shift the trunk, sustain normal abdominal tension, and increase intra-abdominal pressure.
Informally known as the abs muscle, the rectus abdominis works to flex the trunk forward.
Extending on either side of the vertebral column, these long muscles run deep in the back to the left and right of the spine provide resistance of bending, twisting at the waist to promote an erect position.
Located below the lungs, this large, dome-shaped muscle contracts rhythmically and continually, and most of the time, involuntarily to assist with respiration.
The most superficial gluteal muscle that adds shape to your posterior, as well as extending and rotating the hip joint.
If it isn’t an arm, leg, or head, it’s probably part of your core.
Now, if you would like a more in-depth explanation of each of these core muscles, check out this article.
Why Core Strength is Vital to Active Aging
For aging adults, concentrating on core strength becomes more and more relevant. The gradual loss of core muscle tissue typically starts as early as your mid-30s.
While you might not realize it at the time, without sufficient resistance training, core strength is likely to have deteriorated so much so that by the time you turn 50, everyday life is made more difficult.
The stability of core muscles impacts your ability to keep the spine supported throughout the day, especially during twisting, bending, and turning movements. From enjoyable activities like swinging a golf club to more laborious work like pushing a shoveling a driveway are all impacted by the strength of your core.
Without a strong core, the likelihood of false and other balance-related injuries increases greatly.
However, a recent study found that regular core strengthening techniques helped to improve balance in adults 60 to 80 years old! As well, increasing your core strength can also help improve your joint pain.
Many movements stem from the core, and without the proper prerequisite strength, dysfunction in the lower back, hips, ankles, and even shoulders can arise as they become more unstable.
The Best 6 Core Exercises for Seniors
Following a proper exercise routine that focuses on strengthening the core — specifically the transverse abdominis — may help mitigate these risks.
The transverse abdominis (often shortened to TVA) acts as the key stabilizer for the entire low back and core muscles. Many times, by strengthening this specific muscle, all other core muscle functions improve.
Follow the below core strengthening exercises for seniors to increase TVA strength, relieve back pain, and regain your way of life once again.
Muscles Targeted: Transverse Abdominis
Begin on your back, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Exhale and draw your belly button in towards your spine (as if there was a string pulling on the inside of your belly button from the ground). Hold for 5 seconds before relaxing.
Repeat 10 times.
This movement will be the basis for all other core exercises to follow.
Muscles Targeted: Transverse Abdominis, Gluteus Maximus, Hamstrings
On your tenth rep of exercise one, stay in the braced position. Drive some weight into your heel, tightening your buttock muscles to raise your hips up.
This should create a straight line from your knees to shoulders. Hold for 5 seconds before relaxing.
Repeat 10 times.
Make sure to rebrace with each rep, pushing that lower back into the ground/bed before lifting up again.
Muscles Targeted: Transverse Abdominis
Now, from the braced position reviewed in exercise one, raise your arms so they are reaching straight up toward the ceiling. Pull your belly button in towards your spine again, then slowly lift up your right leg, maintaining the bend in your knee.
With your left hand, push into your right knee and hold for 5 seconds. Return to starting position and repeat on the other side.
Repeat for 5 reps on each side.
Match your breath to the movement as done with the first exercise. Inhale and draw your belly button in; exhale and perform the movement. Hold & repeat.
Muscles Targeted: Transverse Abdominis, Trapezius, Latissimus Dorsi
Now, flip from your back to your belly. Use a mat or blanket for cushioning or place a pillow underneath your belly for extra comfort.
Stretch your arms out in front of you, palms on the ground. Tighten your core as you have done previously, lifting one arm about two inches off the floor on each exhale. Lower and repeat on the opposite side.
Perform 5 reps on each side.
Be sure not to arch your lower back when performing this movement.
Muscles Targeted: Transverse Abdominis, Glutes, Hamstrings, Multifidus
Gently push yourself up from the lying position to a tabletop position. Your knees will be directly under your hips, hip-width apart, and your hands will be firmly on the ground, directly underneath the shoulders, about shoulder-width apart.
Brace the abdominals. Extend your left leg behind you and right arm, forming one straight line from the tips of your fingers to your heel, keeping hips squared to the ground.
Raise your leg only as high as you can while keeping your back straight. Hold for 5 seconds, then return. Switch to the other side.
Perform 5 reps on each side.
If this exercise feels too challenging, just do the leg lift and keep both hands planted on the ground.
Muscles Targeted: Transverse Abdominis, Obliques
For the final movement, you will move up to sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lift one arm straight up the ceiling and the other arm hanging down to one side.
Draw your belly button into your spine, and maintain good posture throughout the entire movement. Gently lean over to the hanging arm side as if reaching toward the floor. Contract your obliques and return to the starting position in a controlled manner.
Repeat 5 reps on each side.
Common Core Strengthening Questions
A majority of these movements may seem foreign to you at first, and that’s okay! They are not your traditional crunches, leg lifts, bicycles for good reason — many of your traditional “core” exercises strictly work your rectus abdominis and oblique muscles… otherwise known as the show muscles.
To truly reduce lower back pain and improve function in your joints, it is important to focus on the core muscles that actually support your movements and improve everyday life.
So, should I Perform Crunches?
No! If you have lower back pain, the exercises above plus these stretches will help.
How Often Should I Perform Core Exercises?
Perform these movements 2-3 times per week. However, core exercises are most effective when combined with consistent whole-body strength training and cardio options.
If you have any other questions regarding either the specific muscles specified or movements address, feel free to drop a comment below! Otherwise, print out these exercises to keep on hand whenever you need a core workout.
Download This FREE Printable Core Exercises for Seniors
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