#QuestionsWithKim Series 4: Core Strength, Weights and Posture

5 September 2016

Our fourth #QuestionsWithKim is here! In this episode Kim has been answering all your ‘Core strength, Weights and Posture’ questions from shifting that stubborn area to exercises at work.



Q: #corestrength I have had lower spinal surgery in 2011 and my spine is now fused from L4­S1. Previous to this I had emergency surgery to my stomach so my abdominal muscles are very weak. Can you recommend any core strength exercises suitable for my lower back, which will help me to build my core? I don’t mind cardio or strength training. Also any help with #posture would be great as I have terrible hunched shoulders. Thank you

A: Well-done getting back to exercise following both your surgeries.  Without knowing your history I’m going to recommend a few things but I would really recommend working with an experienced personal trainer, ideally with some sports therapy training too. This will allow them to specifically help support you in the beginning, choosing suitable exercises.  I would suggest around 6 sessions, spaced over 4-6 month’s, with a plan in-between. If you can afford this, I really think it would help you long term with your overall well-being and strength.

For general exercises I would really work on strengthening all the core muscles, so following a basic plan to start with working on waking them up and getting that area really mobile and stable.   Try this at home for 3 mini sessions a week; crunches, side crunches, lying back alternate superman, gluteal bridge & dorsal raise. Just 1-2 sets is all that’s needed, really focusing on the downward movement and keeping the engagement, combined with remember to breath. For your posture and hunched shoulders, have a read of the answers below, as there is more information.

Yet each day when you get up, really stretch and lengthen your body, take a deep breath and relax your shoulders. Do this several times throughout the day, noticing your posture when working at a computer, on the phone and driving, being mindful of sitting straight and drawing your shoulders back from between the shoulder blades (rather than raising them up higher and back).

Keep me posted how you go with the exercises and your posture, sometimes taking photos each week front and side on will help you to focus and see the progress.  To improve both, little and often, consistently is key.


Q: #corestrength ­having lost 50lbs I’m finding that my core/belly are not what they could be. What exercises do you suggest to help with this stubborn area? 

A: Really well done losing weight, what a star you are!  So core and belly exercises, first I would suggest making sure you are doing plenty of daily movement, whilst engaging your core muscles. This will help wake that area up and keep your metabolism working well.  Secondly, many women I coach tend to avoid the stubborn area, so make sure each day you moisturise and massage that area, this will wake the muscles up, and as you massage have the intention that this area can become leaner and stronger again (or whatever words work for you). Sounds a bit random but trust me the mind body connection and attention is key to shift that area.   Then I would check in on your nutrition, making sure you are getting good fresh foods, balanced in proteins, essential fats and carbs, to give you energy but also allow the body to start to shift the ‘stubborn area. Have a read of the nutrition series 2 questions as that may help too.

Then the bit you are looking for… exercise wise, I would recommend a blend of HiiT training if that works for you, it’s high intensity, fat burning and quick time wise, so easy to fit in a couple of times a week.

For Core specific exercises I would do a couple of home workouts, starting with some skipping to wake your body up and then doing this little workout:  Crunches or Sit Ups, Mountain Climbers, Gluteal Donkey Kick, Side Crunches, Press Ups, Dorsal Raises.  I would do as many as you can in 60secs, cycle through the exercises and repeat, aiming to do twice a week, for at least a month and then checking back in with me, to see how you are going.  You can send me a tweet or message, and we can make it harder or tweak things depending how you are going.  There are other little core workouts in this thread so check them out too. Good luck and believe you can do this, as I know you can.


Q: #QuestionsWithKim #posture I do a lot of driving and hot desking for work and I always have sore/tension pain in my shoulders at the end of the day and my lower back suffers. Do you have any postural advice or exercises I could do to relieve this?  Thanks.

A: Ahh this is really common with people, as we spend a lot of time in a folded position.  So the first thing I would recommend is finding 3-5 yoga stretches that you get in the habit of doing once a day.  I really like the Tibetan 5 Moves, as they open up your body and stretch all the different areas, which are folded from sitting.

Once you have got in the habit of doing this, I would make sure when you are driving and sitting, your head and shoulders are relaxed and symmetrical, you may need to get a colleague or friend to check this.   I get people to set a screen saver that every 45mins prompts you to correct your shoulders, stand up, stretch your arms and take a deep breath, sounds like it won’t make a difference and you may feel silly but it really does help. Give it a go for a month and see how you feel.

Investing in a tennis or golf ball, or Trigger Point Therapy ball maybe useful for your shoulders and back.  Place this against your shoulders whilst you lean back into a wall, find the pressure point and roll it around.  If you can get someone to do this for you, it will really help too.  If you can afford a sports massage every month, just for 30mins, this would help to reduce any tension that is building up too. Often massage schools will be looking for guinea pigs for students about to graduate to practise with, and the treatments are free.

In terms of exercise, I would get a swiss ball (the correct size for your height), and practise sitting on this, moving your pelvis under and back, so mobilising it whilst stretching your arms above your head. I would then suggest a basic core routine with the swiss ball:  crunches, side crunches, lying over the ball superman alternates and dorsal raises, 1-3 sets of 20 reps of each exercise, followed by some light weigh exercises to strength your posture.  These could include press-ups, reverse flys, one arm row, squats and deadlifts depending on your confidence in technique.  Build these gradually and consistently and see how you go. Keep me posted and know it takes a little time to change your posture, but its well worth the time and investment in the long run.


Q: #QuestionsWithKim can you please recommend some strengthening exercises for my lower back? I play hockey and it seems to always be that area that has a dull ache afterwards. Thanks 

A: I love hockey and used to play myself, it’s a tough game!  Like with many sports there are lots of rotation and multi directional moves.  If you are knowledgeable and have good basic strength, I would recommend using the ViPR or Kettlebells to build the functional strength in that area.

So a workout with moving lunges, moving squats & deadlifts would really help your functional strength. If you are unsure, a session with a personal trainer could really help, just check they understand your sport.

For a core specific training plan for your sport I would recommend doing these isolated exercises twice a week: Plank, Side Plank,  Cycling Legs (really remember to breathe), Dorsal Raise, Gluteal Donkey Kick, Crunches, Back Superman Alternatives.

Aim to do 2 sets of 60 secs of each, twice a week followed by a really good stretch and foam rolling session. Often tight muscles can cause the lower backache, so you don’t want to strengthen them more, without the flexibility.  After key matches I would recommend a sports massage for a quick flush through of the muscles and to release any tension. Good luck and let me know how you get on!


Q: #corestrength I struggle with lower back pain during long races can having a stronger core stop the form from going? Can you suggest good core strengthening exercises please if so :) thanks xx how you get on, and big support to you.

A: It’s quite common after long races to have lower back pain, and it can come from many reasons. I’m not sure if it’s running or triathlon, or something else, but hopefully my ideas will help whatever.  Firstly when you go long distance, often your overall technique starts to tire, so building your training plan to develop a really strong base, and then speed endurance is key (which I know you will already do).  It’s about having triggers when you are competing to remind you to correct your technique and posture as you tire, so keep the best form you can. After this, I would check nutrition and hydration, as sometimes if this is out, it can cause bloating or tiredness too, which will cause an ache here.  If all of this is good and you have comprehensive stretching, foam rolling and body maintenance (massage, recovery, rest) plan, these are the key exercises I would recommend and build up for long races (the longer the race, the longer I would be able to do the exercise for).   I would incorporate more in your base and recovery phases of your season, and then keep key ones in on a weekly basis when building to your main race.

As a start I would go with this 2-3 times a week, 1-2 sets aiming for duration over reps:  Plank (single leg if you can, building the duration whilst keeping the shoulders relaxed & remember to breathe).  If you are doing a 10km I think 60 secs is good, half marathon aim for 90secs plus and marathon 2mins plus is brilliant.

Dorsal raise with a pause of 2-3 secs at the top if you can hold this.  Lying on your back, scissor kicks, really engaging your lower core and breathing, aiming to do for a minute.  Side Plank (keeping your elbow in line with your shoulder) and holding for 30secs plus each side, noticing if one side is weaker than the other and spending more time on this.  Gluetal Bridge and single leg extension forwards and back, or raise and lower if you have the control.  Finally, back alternate super man on hands and knees really extending the length of the arm and body.

Let me know how you and if you have any specific questions for key races. Remember, the surface you are running or competing on make a difference too, and lots of balance work really helps.


Stay tuned to our social channels for live updates and Kim’s last #QuestionsWithKim which will be on the topic of ‘Goal Setting’.