The Guide to Core Strengthening for Kids

June 5th, 2017
Core Muscle Strengthening
On a day-to-day basis, whether our children are at school, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy we are told that they need to “strengthen their core.” But what are core muscles? How do we strengthen them? Why do some children “W” sit? What can we do to help?
 
What are core muscles?
Core muscles are a group of muscles in your stomach, back, pelvis, and trunk that help provide stability and create movement.  When these muscles are not working properly they can cause back pain, decrease balance, cause difficulty with coordination and poor posture.
 
The muscles of the core are as follows…
-Transversus Abdominus
-External Obliques
-Internal Obliques
-Pelvic Floor Muscles
-Erector Spinae
-Multifidus
-Diaphragm
 
All of these muscles work together to compress the abdomen, provide trunk rotation and movement, and help create upright posture and support your spine.  These muscles help provide your child with stability, balance, body awareness, and the ability to move around in space, which impacts bilateral coordination, stair climbing, balance, navigating obstacles, and upright sitting and standing, and more!

How can I tell if my child has a weak core?
A weak core can have effects that trickle down to many other developmental skills from balance to posture to pencil grip and more. 
 
Signs of a Weak Core
-Sitting: slumping, fidgeting, leaning on one hand, difficulty with fine motor tasks, W-sitting.
-Transitions: difficulty rolling, crawling, moving from lying down to sitting, and moving from sitting to standing.
-Balance: Difficulty with balance and unsupported sitting, frequent falls, and difficulty with one leg standing.
-Coordination: Difficulty running, performing jumping jacks, crossing midline, and ball skills.
 
Why is W-sitting bad? 
W-sitting is when a child sits on their bottom with their knees bent and feet positioned outside of their hips and this makes a “W” shape.
 
When W-sitting is a child’s go-to sitting position they are at risk for…
-Hip dislocation
-Lack of cross body movements
-No hand preference
-Increased muscle tightness
-Limited core strengthening
 
What can I do to help my child’s core strength? 
There are many ways to help children of any age strengthen their core muscles.
 
-No W-Sitting: Make sure that your child is not sitting in W-sitting position and correct with “fix your feet”.  Sitting on the floor in long sit, side sit, or legs crossed sitting helps increase core strength and improve trunk mobility.
 
-Play Time: Encourage your child to play in unstructured, spontaneous play where they are running, climbing, lifting, rolling, pushing, pulling, moving, and engaging in whole body movements.
 
-Planks: Have your child get into a push up position and hold.  Make sure that their body is making a straight line from head to toe.  Encourage by having a contest with family members!
 
-Bridges: Have your child lie on their back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  Have them suck their belly button into their spine and push through their feet to raise their bottom up off the floor.  Encourage by rolling a ball or cars under the bridge.
 
-Super Hero: Have your child lie on their stomach on the floor and try to lift their arms, upper chest, and legs off the floor like they are a flying super hero.
 
-Wheelbarrow Walks: Hold your child’s feet and legs and have them walk forward on their hands towards a target.  Try to have a relay race with friends!
 
For more ideas about core strengthening at home or with any questions about core strength or W-sitting, make sure to talk with a physical therapist! 
 
Written by: “KC” Karen Albiston, PT, DPT for Oceanside Therapy Group

Sources:
Drobnjak, L., Heffron, C. (2015).  The Core Strengthening Handbook.  The Inspired Treehouse, LLC.
 
What Is W-Sitting? (Copyright © Pathways.org) Pathways.org. Retrieved June 2, 2017 from https://pathways.org/blog/what-is-w-sitting/
 
Core Exercises: Guidelines and Examples. (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics). Healthychildren.org. Retrieved June 2, 2017 from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/fitness/Pages/Core-Exercises-Guidelines-and-Examples.aspx