Note: This post is primarily written for the individual looking to prevent a future lower back injury from occurring or currently attempting to overcome their own lower back injury.
Contrast to popular belief; many people believe that they should perform core stability or low back exercises every other day. However, research from Mayer et al., (1985) showed that performing daily low back exercises were beneficial in helping individual’s following an industrial low back injury return to work compared to a group of patients that were denied treatment from their insures. Based on this research, we see that there is support for daily core stability/low back exercises in people with lower back pain. Now, that doesn’t mean everyone should perform daily core stability/low back exercises, since everyone may respond differently. Some people may respond to daily; some every other day or some may not be at the point to perform core stability/low back exercises because they are in so much pain. However, the theory behind performing these daily core stability/low back exercises is that they will create a ‘residual’ stiffness in the spine that may last for hours throughout the day. This residual stiffness may help spare the spine when performing specific movements or tasks that specifically may involve loading the spine.
Additionally, when performing daily core stability/low back exercises, it’s important to understand that we are developing muscular endurance and not muscular strength. Two distinctly different concepts that require various training programs. Muscular endurance would likely respond better to daily since we are always using our core stabilizer muscles during daily tasks such as walking, running, standing, etc. On the flip side, we can’t train muscular strength every day since we would only overload the body, accumulate fatigue and in a matter of time create an injury.
Further, based on my personal experience and my history of lower back issues, I routinely perform 3-4 core stability exercises before every workout I perform. I’ve personally found this to be especially helpful with my workouts as I feel I can get a better understanding of which core muscles I need to activate when performing more advanced lifts such as squats or deadlifts.
Lastly, when it comes to my clients with lower back issues, daily core stabilization exercises will almost always be implemented if they don’t cause pain. Additionally, for many of my high-performance clients, they will perform core stabilization and activation exercises before their workout. This is to ensure they are prepared and know what muscles they need to stiffen when it comes exercises such as the deadlift or squat.
Mayer TG, Gatchel RJ, Kishino N, et al. 1985 Volvo Award in Clinical Sciences. Objective assessment of spine function following industrial injury: a prospective study with comparison group and one-year follow-up. Spine 1985;10:482–93.