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Strengthen Your Core – Hip Clamshell Exercise 

 May 5, 2011

By  Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

Mechanicsville, Virginia — Most people these days seem to know it is important to strengthen and maintain a strong core.  (Though not everyone)  Especially when it comes to the health and function of your spine.  At Stover Chiropractic, P.C. I’m often asked by patients with low back pain, sciatica, numbness, tingling, or fibromyalgia, “What can I do at home to help strengthen my back?”  Well there are many movements, activities, and exercises for strengthening the spine (though different than just 10 or 15 years ago–please see my previous post: Ill-Advised Low Back Rehabilitation Recommendations).  But there are some other important muscle groups that are often weak when people have weak spines or cores musculature.  The gluts are critical and often ignored by simple at home routines.

Lately I’ve come to appreciate mikereinold.com.  He is a therapist that gives great information and video for rehab.  In the following video he demonstrates the Hip Clamshell Exercise.  It is so simple and effective at strengthening important muscles in the gluts.  The glut medius for those who are interested!

For those who are reading and want more to do for the back, generally speaking, I’ve copied the following exercises.  The thing I like about these is they pay attention to strengthening the spine through balance and resistance.  These days we understand it is important to rehab the nervous system and the muscles of the spine in order to prevent injury or re-injury.  This comes from: Chiropractic Wellness Center in South Las Vegas, in a blog post from 2/11/11 titled “Low Back Pain and Balance Exercises.”  I hope you find it helpful.

“We’re going to look at ways to improve our balance by learning specific exercises that utilize the parts of our nervous system that regulate balance or, proprioception.  Particularly, our cerebellum (back of the brain that regulates coordination), the vestibular system (the inner ear where the semi-circular canals are located), the ascending tracts in our spinal cord (the “highways” that bring information to the brain from our feet and the rest of our body), and the small “mechano-receptors” located in our joints that pick up our movements as we walk and run and sends that information through our nerves, up the spinal cord tracts to the brain.  Here are some very practical exercises to do, “…for the rest of our lives.” Start with the easy ones!

1.         Easy (Level 1): Standing eyes open/closed – Start with the feet shoulder width apart, look straight ahead to get your balance and then close the eyes and try not to sway counting to 30 by, “…one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, etc.” Repeat this with your feet closer together until they touch each other.  You can make this harder by standing on a pillow or cushion — but don’t start that way!

2.         Medium (Level 2): Lunges – from a similar starting position as #1, step forwards with one leg and squat slightly before returning back to the start position. Repeat this 5x with each foot/leg.  As you progress, you can take a longer stride and/or squat down further with each repetition. You can even hold onto light dumbbells and/or close your eyes to make it more challenging.

3.         Hard (Level 3): Rocker or wobble board exercises – use a platform that rocks back & forth or, wobbles in multiple directions.  Rock back and forth, eyes open and then closed, once you get comfortable on the board.  You can rotate your body on the board, standing straight ahead (12 o’clock) followed by 45 degree angles as you work your way around in a circle at 45 degree increments (12, 1:30, 3, 4:30, 6, 7:30, 9, 10:30 and back to noon). Repeat these eyes open and closed.  The Wii Balance board is a fun way to exercise – check that out as well.”

Don’t be tempted to think these are too easy or that they are not helping the spine.  Give them a try.

Dr. Craig Liebenson, from L.A. Sports and Spine, also has wonderful resources for exercises.  Check them out.

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.


Dr. Stover grew up in Richmond. He has been married to his wife Andrea since 2000 and they make their home in Mechanicsville with their children, Avery and Garnett.

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

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