Training the core muscles is something that’s so important for overcoming back pain, but it’s one of those things that a lot of people can get wrong. We often assume exercises typically associated with abdominal muscles are going to be suitable, but they often involve actions that we don’t typically do on a daily basis: you’re not going to use crunches in your daily life regularly in any way, shape or form. They also typically involve lots of positions that can irritate your back pain. Today we’re going to talk about why the core muscles are important if you have back pain, what mistakes you might be making and our five tips for core training success.

What are the core muscles?

The core muscles protect your spine from damage by forming a barrier or first line of defence. If you imagine your spine as a bag of potatoes, it can be quite unstable in many ways. The ligaments on the front and back of the vertebrae provide support, but if you have back pain they’re not likely to be doing so well at supporting you. This is because if we regularly sit with bad posture, your ligaments loosen to whatever position you’re putting your spine in the most. Your core muscles are ultimately going to help keep everything stable, and can be engaged to tighten and form a corset. We lose core strength if we sit regularly and don’t do any exercise, but even gym-bunnies with 6-packs can have a weak core if they don’t engage it and do the right exercises.

What are common mistakes when training the core muscles?

As we mentioned before, core exercises can often be tarred with the same brush as abdominal exercises, like sit-ups, planks or Russian twists. But it’s not very often we do these exercises in our day-to-day lives. Doing functional training is going to be helpful for you if you’re training for day-to-day health and wellbeing. A very effective way of herniating a disc usually comes from bending forwards, twisting the spine and then lifting something. This is something we hear time and time again from patients who have herniated discs, but this essentially is the movement of a Russian twist. The flexion you put your spine through when doing sit-ups and Russian twists is not helpful and can put a lot of pressure on your back as you complete the movement. Although planks don’t involve forward bending, it so often results in the mid-section drooping, which can feel like all the pressure then is in your back. There are so many better ways you can improve your core strength without these exercises. Furthermore, with core exercise, you may be tempted to add weight because you can’t feel the exercise working. If you’re not engaging the core, which most people don’t when doing these exercises, you’re going to find that you need to add more weight. This leaves you susceptible to injury.

Join The Back In Shape Program

A full protocol to support you get out of back pain in the short term and then rehab safely and effectively to deal with the issue for the long term.

Our 5 steps to core-training success

The very first and most important step in training your core is to learn how to engage it. We specifically teach you this using the vacuum exercise, which you can find by signing up for free to our Back In Shape membership area. This area is where we teach you exercises and stretches that can help you get your back rehabilitation going from home. If you’re a lady who’s had a C-section in the past and didn’t do any specific training since for your core, you may find it takes awhile to be able to feel that core engage again. You will find rebuilding the core muscles to be challenging but it’s well worth doing. At first you may also need to link it to your breathing, but once you get the hang of the movement you can separate it with practice until it becomes second nature. If you can’t engage your core, you should not be moving on to any core exercises, as this is a vital step.

We then move onto stabilising the core by laying down and introducing a movement that challenges the engagement. The most effective exercise we show you as part of the Back In Shape membership is a deadbug. Lying on your back and engaging your core, you then bring your legs up to 90 degrees and lower one at a time. This can be very difficult at first if you’re new to core training, especially as you’re also trying not compensate by moving your lower back. You may lose that core engagement during the movement or may not be able to lower very far at first, but as you get stronger this will improve.

Next we introduce bodyweight exercises standing, using functional exercises you’ll be able to implement in your day-to-day life. This is exercises like squats as you can use it to pick things up off the ground, to load the dishwasher or work in the garden, instead of bending forwards at the waist. If you’ve done any bodyweight exercises before, you may be wondering why this is considered core training. You should be engaging your core during these exercises, regardless of how you may have done them in the past.

Unilateral exercises are introduced later on when you’re starting to make good progress with your core training. This involves introducing asymmetrical exercises to challenge the core, like lunges as this will further strengthen the area against damage. Lunges is also one of those exercises that can be used in your daily life to bend closer to the ground.

Finally, when all of those exercises have been mastered, you’ll then be bulletproofing this training and progressing the same exercises using added weight or resistance. Our preferred method is using exercise bands or kettlebells to build strength, but it’s certainly a fun way to start challenging your body and keep things interesting! Adding too much weight too soon may be a problem, but making sensible additions to weight training and allowing some adjustment time is the best way to increase safely.

We hope you enjoyed today’s article on training the core muscles! If you have any questions about the topic today, please feel free to get in touch with us either via our social channels, by emailing us at or by tuning in to our livestreams every weekday on our Facebook and YouTube channels. If you’d like to start your back pain rehabilitation from home, you can learn all the tips and tricks we went through today and more by signing up at

Contact Us.

Email Us

Call Us

0203 947 32 22

Clinic Address

4 Cavendish Square, London, W1g 0PG.