Top 4 Core Exercises For Disc Herniations (2020)

Finding the right core exercises for disc herniations can be what seems like a never-ending uphill climb. On one hand, you are scared to death of making things worse and on the other, you know you have to do SOMETHING to help get yourself back into fighting shape and reverse the disc herniation the best that you can.

What you don’t need right now is a list of things you CAN’T do because of your disc herniation. So let’s flip it!

In today’s post, I am going to give you my top 4 core exercises for disc herniations that are not only SAFE for you but the best in the business when it comes to building a bulletproof core.

The Do's And Don'ts Of Core Training For Disc Herniations

This goes without saying but the best way to stop and/or reverse a disc herniation is to stop doing the movements that could be potentially causing it in the first place. You don’t have to be a doctor to figure this out or a degree in human anatomy and biomechanics. 

One of the simplest ways of knowing what NOT to do is get a good understandning of the pain triggers you currently have. Is it flexion (bending over), is it extension (bending back) or is it twisting?

On the simplest level possible the best thing for you to STOP doing when it comes to core exercises for disc herniations is to not do exercises that cause these symptoms to get worse. 

In my experience working with thousands of disc injuries around the world the most common core exercises that tend to trigger symptoms or make things worse are:

  • Russian Twists 
  • Sit-Ups 
  • Crunches 
  • Leg Raises
  • Leg Drops aka “Flags” 

So if there was a “DO NOT ENTER” section of core training, these hoodlums would be waiting for you right behind the corner.

Now, all the other exercises fall into a category of core exercises for disc herniations that I like to call. 

Go For It But Listen For Feedback.

Essentially this is where the modifications come in. As you unpack a certain exercise whether it be a Ceiling Press Hold, Stability Ball Roll Out, or Pallof Press To Warrior Press. 

The best rule of thumb is to LISTEN FOR FEEDBACK from your body. If it doesn’t feel good and the pain/discomfort rises above 4/10 find something else to play with and modify from there. 

How Do You Strengthen Your Core With A Herniated Disc?

Let me be the first to tell you that you don’t need to over-complicate this. Yes, you may have some minor abnormalities to your spine but all that means (if you are having symptoms) is to be mindful of the feedback your body is giving you. 

Other than that you can strengthen your core with a herniated disc just like anyone else at the gym (assuming they have read this article and know which exercises to avoid).

So you can easily structure a 2-3 exercise routine that is both fun and challenging but also respects the fact that you do have a herniated disc. 

If you want to learn more about what a safe core strengthening routine looks like pick up my free Core Training With Back Pain Blueprint.

Or if you’re tired of reading and you want to be an action taker jump into Core Essentials and prepare for a life-changing experience! 

How Can Core Exercises Help With A Herniated Disc?

The thought process behind building core strength for back pain relief or help with a herniated disc is this idea that the core is “unstable” and needs strengthening. 

This is true and untrue at the same time. 

If you are standing upright then congratulations your core is “strong enough”. 

Under certain situations where you have been operated on and the musculature in the trunk has been cut through or compromised in some way due to surgery, this is where strengthening the core can really help.

What I would prefer you to think about is Core Coordination and Core Endurance. 

Core exercises for herniated discs that focus on these two elements are critical for improving resiliency and stability in the spine during movement. Building better core coordination and endurance will not only boost the confidence in your spine but help with protecting you from core fatigue.

So with the right core exercises for your herniated disc, you will not only work towards reversing what is going on now but help prevent it from happening even more in the future. 

Top 4 Core Exercises For Disc Herniations

The first core exercise for disc herniations on my list is what I call the Pallof Press to Warrior Press.

It is hands down one of my favorite exercises in the world.

As you can see in this video I am combining the Pallof Press with the Warrior Press while focusing on a neutral spine and pelvis. 

Check it out below!

The second core exercise for disc herniations on my list is what I call the Ski Pull. 

This is another exercise that challenges your ability to maintain a neutral spine under stress. If done right your are giving your trunk different levels of intensity as you move the arm from being behind you to being in front of you. 

Below are some actions shots of this and to see it broken down with back pain specific coaching check out the video at the top!

The third core exercise for disc herniations on my list is the Side Plank. 

The side plank is definitely an underestimated exercise considering all people tend to care about is how long they can hold a front plank for. 

Pro Tip: If you can hold a plank for longer then 90 seconds odds are you’re doing it wrong.

How long you can hold a front plank means nothing when it comes to how strong or how much endurance you have in your core.

When it comes to picking the right exercises for disc herniations we don’t want to just focus on the “front” of our abs. We want to hit the trunk in all directions. 

Check it out below!

The fourth and final core exercise for disc herniations is the Loaded Deadbug

This is another one of my FAVORITE core exercises especially if you have been dealing with any history of disc issues. The key to this exercise is to take it slow and don’t try to make it too hard to fast. 

This really challenges the coordination and endurance in the trunk with the movements that are going on. The last thing you want to do is lose focus on the trunk for the sake of doing more reps or adding weight. 

Remember KISS? 

Keep It Simple Stupid

Now there are a couple of ways you can do these exercises and since you are here I want to roll out the red carpet. The video below is a great starter version but if you want an even more challenging and all-encompassing core exercise safe for your disc herniations

Check out the last exercise I demo in the very first video  at the top

I promise you will love it!

So can I train my core even with a disc herniation?

If you were my client and I knew of this history I would first ask if you have been cleared to exercise. 

Once I got that okay then after diving into a lot of the key points I made at the top of this article I would start testing different SAFE core exercises that I knew were some of the best for sensitive backs. 

From there I would modify according to your specific needs. 

That’s it. Your life is not at risk. It’s okay that your spine has a little wear and tear. The key thing that will allow you to stand out and see progress is having the right coaching. This is essential.

If you were honest with yourself do you have enough knowhow to navigate a painful exercise, a recent flair up, or pain days after training? 

If not (and that’s okay) get help. There is nothing wrong with that. If it is help you need, you can always join us inside of the Smart Strength Membership! 

Lots of people building strength safely and confidently with multi-level herniations bulges and even full-on fusions. 

Which of the 5 core training HOODLUMS do you need to give up? 

Let me know below! 

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