4 Core Exercises That Aren't Sit-ups | The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC


Over the past few weeks, I’ve been in physical therapy as part of my rehab program after my hip surgery. While I’m still not able to do a lot, I’m thankful to be working toward full range of motion and increased movement and intensity. —I was cleared this week to begin walking short distances for exercise (my dog has been patiently waiting for this), and allowed to start using resistance on my stationary bike – I can’t tell you how mind-numbing riding a stationary bike with no resistance has been the last 5 weeks–

The main area that my physical therapist is focusing on is my core. Having a strong core is imperative for ensuring all of the tendons, ligaments, and muscles function as effectively and efficiently as possible. For my particular situation, completing my range of motion and strength exercises will prevent me from developing bursitis in my hip. A bursa is a small, jelly-like sac that contains fluids and acts as a cushion between bones and soft tissues to help reduce friction. Bursitis occurs when the bursa become inflamed. I’ve had bursitis in both of my knees. At the same time. Not fun. It is extremely painful. 

In focusing on strengthening my core, I am doing a whole series of exercises – none of which involve sit-ups. Here are four core exercises that are part of my rehab program (and that aren’t sit-ups).

1) Bridges (or Butt Lifts): Lie flat on your back with your hands at your sides. Bend your knees less than 45 degrees and keep your feet about shoulder-width apart. Tighten your tummy and exhale while lifting your hips off the floor by mainly pushing down with your heels. Keep your back straight. Inhale at the top, and exhale as you come back down. You should feel this in your hamstrings and glutes. To make this harder, push your hips up and then alternate lifting one foot off the ground at a time – make sure your hips stay straight and are not ‘rocking’ back and forth as you switch feet. Here is a video on how to do a bridge.

2) The Bird Dog (or Opposite Leg, Opposite Arm): Start on your hands and knees – keep your back flat all the way through your neck (so you’re not looking up or forward). Tighten your core and slowly lift one leg straight back and the opposite arm straight forward. Make sure your back is straight and your hips are even with the ground (you don’t want to be tilting to one side). Hold for a few seconds and then switch to the other leg and arm. The switch should be smooth with no rocking or tilting. To make this harder, rock forward and backward while one arm and leg is lifted. You can also bring your lifted knee and lifted elbow together, like a “crunch,” and straighten back out. Here is a video demonstrating the Bird Dog.

3) Prone Knee Extension: Lie face down with a foam roller or firm bolster under your ankles. Tighten your glutes and core to straighten your legs and lift your pelvis from the floor. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. This is similar to a plank without going up on your elbows or hands. A plank would be a harder version.

4) Prone Heel Squeeze: You will feel this one in your glutes. A lot. Lie face down with your legs about shoulder-width apart (or a little more). Bend your knees and bring your heels together – you can hold something between your heels here if you’d like. Without moving your knees, squeeze your heels together and extend your hips to lift your knees off the ground toward the ceiling. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax. Repeat. Here is a video of the Prone Heel Squeeze.

There are many other exercises to strengthen the core, but these are the ones I’m working on and wanted to share with you right now. Let me know if you try them out!

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