Strengthen Your Core To Minimize PainYou’ve probably heard health nuts and exercise enthusiasts say something about “strengthening your core” a thousand times, but what does that actually mean? Well, in simplest terms, at least where the front portion of your core is concerned, it means your abs.

No, you don’t have to have six-pack abs, although if you’re feeling ambitious, why not? But even a moderate amount of exercise that focuses on that particular muscle group can give you huge benefits that extend well beyond aesthetics. In particular, it can help alleviate back pain. Here’s how:

If your abdominal muscles are weak, then the muscles in your back have to take up the slack in terms of supporting your frame and keeping you upright. In two words, that means they have to work harder. The harder you work those back muscles, the more likely you are to suffer back pain and/or damage to your spine caused by too much stress on it.

Again, you don’t have to go nuts here. Even two or three ten to fifteen-minute exercise sessions a week that focus on your abs can make a great deal of difference. Even better, you don’t need any fancy equipment to strengthen those muscles. You can do it simply by sitting on the floor and doing a few basic exercises like these:

Crunches – Everybody knows what these are. Consider them to be partial sit-ups that see you relying on your abdominals to lift your back from the floor to a partial sitting position.

The Rope Climb – Here, you’ll want to sit with your legs straight out in front of you and your toes pointed. Rolling your shoulders forward and sitting back at a slight incline, holding yourself up with your abs, you’ll raise first one arm, then the other, twisting slightly as you do, as though you were climbing a rope.

The Oblique Reach – Seated with your knees bent and feet on the floor, you’ll alternate straightening and lifting your right leg, and reaching out to touch your toes with your left hand, then reversing it, so that your left leg is straightened and lifted, while your right hand reaches for your toes.

Doing any of these, or even a mix of all three just a few minutes, three times a week will see you dramatically strengthen your abs, reducing the risk of back pain or back injury. That’s win-win.