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How to build a strong core to reduce back, hip, and knee pain

When we discuss core strength, it’s helpful to first think of what “core” means. Think of your core muscles as the link connecting your upper and lower body. No matter what you’re doing, your core muscles are staying busy, holding you up, keeping you balanced, and helping propel you to where you want to go. Core muscles include your deep abdominals and back muscles, which are among the most active muscle groups in the body.

“Strengthening your core is less about getting a ‘six pack’ than it is about having good overall body function,” says Great Basin Orthopaedics physical therapist Stephen Capel. “Core muscles are crucial for the transfer of energy across the body. A strong core can not only support athletic performance; it can help you take care of daily tasks like raking leaves, putting on socks, and carrying groceries.” 

Alternatively, a weak core can lead to lower back, hip, and knee pain. It can also increase your risk of injury, among other health risks. Here are some of the most important reasons why you should build a strong core:

Related: Avoiding running injuries

If you need more convincing to flex those core muscles, here are the top five reasons to build a strong core:

1. Prevent injury

Core strength allows pressure to be taken off joints, helping to reduce and prevent additional injury. Strengthening abdominal muscles will stabilize your body during workouts and daily activity, reducing pressure on your knees and hips while keeping them properly aligned.

2. Enhance athletic performance

Did you know that core strength can help you run faster? Core muscles help to keep your torso upright and stable when you run, allowing the pelvis, hips and lower back to work together more smoothly. Because your arms and legs are all connected to the core, the stronger your torso, the stronger your limbs. But it’s not just running sports that require a strong core – golfing, biking, swimming, volleyball, kayaking – all these activities are powered by a strong core.

3. Improve posture

Good posture reduces wear and tear on the spine and joints, which allows you to breathe deeply and, as a bonus, conveys confidence. Alternatively, poor posture can lead to back, hip, and knee pain, as extra stress is put on these joints to help hold up your body. Good posture helps to reduce stress on your knees and can lessen the effects of osteoarthritis. You can gain the full benefit from the effort you put into exercising too, igniting the correct muscle groups while minimizing the strain on your joints in your back and legs.

Related: How to keep from getting injured in adult rec sport

4. Develop flexibility

Because core exercises improve stability, they also support healthy ligaments and muscle mobility. Increased stability leads to minimalized stress and tension in the joints, allowing for greater range of motion and enhanced flexibility. Research studies have also found a significant correlation between core stability and the range of motion of the lower extremities, specifically the hamstrings.

5. Improve balance, coordination, posture and brain power

As the back and abdominal area become stronger, balance and coordination improve. According to, doing core exercises also stimulates a particular area in the brain called the cerebellum which affects coordination, spatial awareness, and balance. These exercises are not only a workout for your body, but also for your brain. For sports that require good hand-eye coordination – like baseball, basketball, football or tennis – a strong core makes for a strong game.

How to build a strong core

As with so many healthy habits, core strengthening is best achieved through an ongoing effort. Ideally, do some core exercises several days a week. Below are some suggestions with video demonstration.

1. Plank
2. Superman
3. Double side leg lift

Related: 10 effective strategies for managing chronic pains

Core strength is a great way to support back and joint health, but it’s not a miracle cure or prevention tool. If you’re experiencing chronic pain that radiates down your extremities, see an expert in bone and joint health. One of our highly skilled, sub-specialty Fellowship-Trained surgeons will assess your condition, discuss your treatment options and develop a plan to get you moving better with less pain. Make an appointment today: 775.786.1600.