In this two-part series I’m going to explain the best ways to work your core because firefighters must have a strong core to protect themselves from back injuries. Back injuries are the most common, and often the most debilitating type of injury that firefighters suffer from.
The core involves quite a few muscle groups: your abdominal on the front of your body and on your sides, and your low and mid back muscles. The best exercises are those that a) target all of these muscle groups and b) keep the spine in neutral.
It’s key to keep the spine in a neutral position while working your core. Any flexing or extending (bending forward or back) causes damage that, while may not be painful at the time, can accumulate and eventually result in an injury.
A simple exercise that will work both the frontal abdominal muscles and the low back muscles can be done on all fours. First start by engaging your abs as if someone were about to punch you. Your back should be almost completely flat. Raise one arm and the opposing leg without moving your hips or letting your back sink, as if there were a glass of water sitting on your low back. Hold for 5-10 seconds before switching sides. Complete 10 on each side 3 days per week.
A second exercise is a plank on a ball. Start with your chest on the ball and then slowly roll out onto your hands. Keep your abs tight and do not let your hips/low back sink. Only roll out as far as you can while keeping your back mostly straight. Hold the plank as long as you can, then roll back. Complete 3 times, 3 days per week.
Next week I will show you the best ways to work your side abdominal muscles (obliques).
Photo Courtesy Karlie Moore