Topics: Spinal Cord Injury, Core Exercises

Strengthening Your Core Post-Injury

For anyone with a spinal cord injury, being as strong as possible is the ultimate goal. Whenever a large portion of your body is paralyzed, it's always important to bolster your strength in other areas. Unfortunately, many people with spinal cord injuries forget about their core. Your core is your torso, back, and chest area, and the stronger you can be in this area, the stronger you'll feel overall.

Having a strong core will help you be more independent as well. With a stronger core, you'll have a better balance, which will enable you to do a lot more things on your own, such as reaching. We use our core in dozens of daily activities. Even if you're paralyzed in your core, you can still work on this area. Here are some of the best ways to increase your core strength after a spinal cord injury.

Trunk "Push-Ups"

If you're able to get on your stomach, an effective core-building exercise that uses your body is trunk lifts. To do this, get on your elbows or have someone help you, then push your trunk and upper back up down using your arm and torso muscles. This exercise works both your core muscles and your arm muscles, which can strengthen your core, especially if you do it in a repetitive pattern.

CrossFit Balance Work

CrossFit-inspired core work can easily be done in a wheelchair. One of the most popular components of CrossFit exercises is the equipment, which can be anything large and heavy you find. A popular piece of equipment that is used in many CrossFit exercises is a kettlebell. 

To do, hold a kettlebell with both arms and directly in front of you while balancing. For many, this is a strenuous enough workout by itself. For a more intense workout, while holding the kettlebell outwards practice leaning to your left and then to your right. You can also lean forward and picking it up off the floor to work on your core. 

Isometric Back Exercises

An easy core-strengthening exercise you can do in your wheelchair is an isometric back exercise called a back extensor. To do this, sit in your wheelchair with good posture, away from your chair's backrest, then relax the back into your backrest. Repetitively do this, which will help build strength in your back muscles and strengthen your core.

Spinal Twists

A core strengthening exercise that feels great when you live with paralysis is a spinal twist. A spinal twist involves grabbing the push handle of your wheelchair behind you, or the back of your wheelchair if you don’t have a push handle, and then using your opposite arm to reach across your lap to twist your spine in either a left or right direction depending on the side you’re working on. This not only releases tension in the back, but it can also work the muscles and strengthen your core. 

Lean in All Directions

Another core-strengthening exercise that targets your back muscles is leaning exercises. You can start by leaning in a forward direction and then sitting back up. Repeating this can strengthen your core. You can also try leaning to the side and then sitting back up again, and repetitively do this.

(Passive) Lower-Body Twists

If you have the assistance of someone, get out of your wheelchair and onto your bed or mat, and have someone assist you with rotating your lower body, with your knees slightly bent, and rotate either to the left are the right while keeping your upper body still. This back and forth motion stretch your core muscles, which can help strengthen them.

At the end of the day, don't forget to focus on your core as you work out and throughout your life as you live with a spinal cord injury. Making sure you keep your core as strong as possible will ensure you’re as independent as you possibly can be for a long time to come.

Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program

Vincent Dolan

Written by Vincent Dolan

A the Director of Public Affairs at SpinalCord.com Vincent has had the opportunity to speak with thousands of individuals (and families) during every step of the recovery process. Vincent has combined his legal and marketing expertise to create the single largest resource for those impacted by a spinal cord or other catastrophic injury. While gathering and sharing these resources Vincent also spends time answering the SpinalCord.com hotline which allows him to better understand what families are going through. Vincent is actively involved in supporting various non profits within the SCI community, and is always open to helping in whatever way he can. Vincent also works with our sponsors Swope, Rodante P.A. to ensure families have every opportunity to obtain the resources which improve the quality of life for individuals after a spinal cord injury.

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