I wasn’t used to this type of test from my doctor.
“You’re having a hard time, huh?”
Was he seriously trying to crush my ego? I’m a fitness fanatic and I write a fitness blog!
Doesn’t he know who I am?
Well his specialty is in Sports Medicine so technically he’s the expert…
Well, it didn’t matter, my body was clearly showing I was weak in one area and it took my doctor to show me.
That’s how my last visit to the doctor went down.
I had gone in for my yearly physical exam and came out with my doctor telling me I had a weak core.
Out of all things I should be grateful this is the only thing I have to “worry” about but it sure hit my ego.
So I have previously talked about how I didn’t warm up prior to my workouts.
I have changed that poor habit.
These days you will see me doing 10 minute long warm ups.
The rewards have been better quality workouts, no injuries I have been getting stronger all around.
That doesn’t mean certain issues have gone away as I expected.
In the article I mentioned above I described a pain in my lower back after doing a couple of reps doing deadlifts.
My injury hasn’t reoccurred. Not even close.
But an issue has been nagging my lower back and won’t go away.
For months I’ve had what feels like a cramp in my left lower back.
Sometimes it’s a cramp.
Sometimes it’s a slight sharp jab in that area.
In this visit to my doctor I had to bring it up and hope for the best.
After describing the pain and discomfort I’m feeling he gave me the diagnosis…
It’s a lower back muscle strain.
But how could this be?
My lower back muscles are pretty strong and look strong as well.
Even the doctor couldn’t deny that I did not lack strength in that area.
But as with most lower back pain the culprit is a weak core.
It is caused by an imbalance.
Strong lower back and a weak core don’t mix.
“But I work on my lower back muscles and I do exercises that strengthen my core.”
That’s what I semi-mumbled to the doctor in disbelief.
It was a sad day.
Fortunately it can be fixed.
I was given the advice I’ve heard before but is always worth repeating:
- Don’t do crunches
- Make sure you have your back straight when doing ab work
- Don’t move your neck when doing an ab exercise
So this wasn’t news to me but I listened patiently.
I was willing to listen and see what he would prescribe.
I was almost sure he was going to tell me to keep doing ab work, maybe tell me to do 3 or 4 exercises.
Far from it.
One Exercise For Abs
So the doctor had me lay down face up on that dreaded cushioned table.
“The best way to fix this problem is with leg raises.”
So the doctor tells me this one exercise I’ve done many times before was going to help?
So how in the world do I still have a weak midsection?
Well, he went on to explain that this wasn’t your typical leg raise where you perform them from a hanging position or simply laying down.
I’m lying there and he says the following, “ok I’m going to have you do this test. I want to see how weak your core is. Now it’s going to sound very simple when I describe it but it will be challenging.
“Go ahead and raise your legs and have your feet touch my hand. Now you’re going to do this at a very slow speed. My hand is up at about a 45 degree angle from the floor. Once you touch my hand with your feet lower your legs at the same slow speed at which you started.”
I’m looking at the doctor with this blank stare.
This dude must be kidding me. This is going to be a breeze.
So I began to raise my legs and kept them straight.
“Slow down. Go slower,” the doctor said this calmly.
So I continued with the movement as I raised my legs.
Ok, this wasn’t fun at all.
My abs began burning and my body started to shake.
First the core began shaking, then my legs and pretty soon the rest of my body.
“See how you’re shaking? You have a weak core.”
So the doctor proved his point and I couldn’t deny it.
Just when my toes touched his hand and my legs were at a 45 degree angle I thought I would get a break.
“Ok, hold it there for a couple of seconds. Now lower your legs at the same speed.”
It took me a good 10 to 12 seconds on the way up and another 10 to 12 seconds on the way down after holding at the top for 3 seconds.
That was one the most challenging exercises I had done in a long time.
How To Perform A Leg Raise
So what seemed like an eternity really taught me a thing or two about what is necessary to build a stronger core and how to properly perform a leg raise to get the maximum benefits.
- Lie down face up on a soft flat surface with your arms at your side
- Keep your legs straight without bending at the knee
- Keep your legs and feet together and your head and neck resting
- Begin to raise your legs as slowly as possible
- Have someone place their hands at a 45 degree angle from the floor
- You can also imagine a point that is 45 degrees off the floor
- Stop once you reach that 45 degree point and hold for 3 seconds
- Lower the legs to the starting position at a slow pace
- The speed at which you lower your legs should be the same speed at which you raised them
- Once you touch the floor immediately begin to raise your legs at the same speed
- Reaching the top of the movement will take between 10 and 15 seconds
- Reaching the bottom of the movement should take the same amount of time
- Repeat for up to 15 repetitions
- Do one set 2 to 3 times per day
In the beginning it may be very difficult to perform more than just 2 or 3 repetitions and that is totally fine.
In my case I was only able to do 3 repetitions to begin with and this alone took about one minute total.
As the doctor also pointed out, it may be tempting to try more but it is very likely that due to a weak core I would strain my core muscles or my lower back.
Build up the number of repetitions slowly as your body becomes used to it.
You can also do a simple one rep or one set test.
If you are able to complete 15 reps without shaking then you are perfectly fine.
If you struggle with one rep or a couple then it’s probably a good idea to start with this daily exercise.
I hear it all the time from people of either gender and all ages. Back problems are very common. Sometimes the simplest movement causes a tweak in their lower back.
Heck, I even know a couple of young guys who complain of lower back pain when they get out of bed.
In my case I have injured it doing deadlifts and squats and have experienced muscle cramps because of lower back strain which is a result of an imbalance in my core.
If you can relate to having some lower back problems or simply want to strengthen that area, build your abs and have them injury proof follow this exercise I outlined.
Remember, having awesome abs begins from deep in your core and doing some crunches won’t get you there.