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A strong core can give you better stability, better posture, flat belly and it can even help reduce back pain. Interested? Of course you are, and you should be (!) because a strong core is an invaluable asset that is essential in most full-body functional movements, both static and dynamic.
In this article I’ll shortly talk about muscles of the core; it’s functions; the best at-home core workout and the benefits of having a strong core.
Muscles Of The Core
The core refers to a set of muscles that surround your abdominal wall (this includes the ‘abs’) but also the lower back muscles, diaphragm and pelvic floor. So, your core is made up of many muscles, including your rectus abdominis (what you think of when you think “abs”), transverse abdominis (the deepest internal core muscle that wraps around your sides and spine), erector spinae (a set of muscles in your lower back), and the internal and external obliques (the muscles on the sides of your abdomen).
Exercises For Strong Core
The best core exercise are the ones that work more than just one group of muscles. Even when you do exercises that recruit more of one muscle than the others (for example, side planks that fire up the obliques), you’ll notice that you still have to engage your entire midsection to do them right, which is proof that these muscles are never working completely alone.
- Bridge – this exercise is highly recommended by fitness instructors and physical therapists especially to people having lower back problems but it’s also great for abs and glutes. Lie on the back with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground, arms extended by your side; Pushing through your feet and bracing your core, raise your bottom of the ground until your hips are fully extended, squeezing your glutes at the top; Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
- Supine Leg Raises – lie on the floor, place your hands (palms down) just a little below your lower back, and slowly lift your legs up and toward your face, keeping them together and stopping when they are about vertical. (If you can’t keep your legs straight, try bending your knees a bit) Then, slowly lower them back down to the ground. Repeat. Do 15 reps in one set.
- Side Plank and Reach Through – This exercise is perfect for obliques and transverse abs. Start in a left side plank with left forearm on the floor, parallel to the top of a mat. Your elbow should be underneath your shoulder. Extant straight your right arm in the air at shoulder level. Engage core and slowly rotate chest down toward the floor while bringing right arm under and across body chest. Follow your right hand’s moves with your head (gaze follows fingers). Raise back to start. Do 15 reps on each side.
- Flutter Kicks – Lie on the floor, place your hands below your lower back (same starting position as for supine leg raises). Now lift your legs alternately without putting them on the ground. You may bend your knees a bit. When you have done raising your right left, then your left, that’s one rep. Make 10-15 reps (of course, start with 10, slowly add up, over time)
- ‘V’ Sits – Sitting on the ground, lean back while lifting both of your legs off the ground at the same time. Keep your hands lifted in front of you. Your hands should be aligned with your shoulders. Make sure that your back and your head are straight, aligned. Keep this position as long as possible. Rest for a few seconds and repeat.
- Dead Bug – (highly recommended exercise by physical therapist). Lie faceup with your arms extended toward the ceiling and your legs in a tabletop position (knees bent 90 degrees and stacked over your hips). Simultaneously lower your left arm above your head while straightening your right leg. Pause, return to the starting position and then repeat on the opposite side. Do 14 alternating reps to complete one set.
- Forearm Plank and High Plank – these are two variations of ‘plank’. Both are great. Keep in mind that your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels. Holding the plank position takes strength and endurance in your abs, back, and core. The plank is one of the best exercises for core conditioning but it also works your glutes and hamstrings, supports proper posture, and improves balance.
- Bicycle Crunches – Lie on your back, bend your knees and pull them towards your chest. Place your hands behind your head. Fingertips should be placed behind your ears. To engage your core, contract your shoulder blades as you lift each side off the floor while straightening one leg and rotating your body. With each rotation, your elbow should reach towards your opposite leg’s knee.
- Mountain Climbers – Start in high plank with your palms flat on the ground, hands shoulder-width apart. Your arms should be aligned with your shoulders. Keeping your core tight, draw your right knee to your chest. Return to the starting position and immediately draw your left knee to your chest. Bring back your left leg. Continue to alternate. The quicker you move your legs, the more of a cardio challenge this will become. Make sure to keep your core engaged and back flat throughout. If you have to slow down to maintain form, that’s fine.
- Bird Dog Crunch – Start on your hands and knees in tabletop position, with your wrists aligned under your shoulders, and your knees stacked under your hips. Extend your right arm forward and left leg back, maintaining a flat back and keeping your hips square to the floor. Squeeze your abs and draw your right elbow and left knee in, to meet near the centre of your body. Then reverse the movement and extend your arm and leg back out. Repeat this movement – 15 reps, then repeat with the left arm and right leg.
- Alternating Arms Plank – Start in a high plank position. Now move your arms a bit forward. Bend your elbows, lowering your body (keep the straight line). Lean on your forearms. Check your body position (straight line from your head to your heels). Hold that position for 5 seconds, and then push yourself up, straightening your elbows and come back to the high plank position. Hold it for 5 seconds. Repeat
Why you should strengthen your core muscles
Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips, and abdomen to work in harmony. This leads to better balance and stability, whether on the playing field or in daily activities. In fact, most physical activities depend on stable core muscles. They also improve your posture.
Core exercises can help tone your abs. These exercises are important. Although it takes aerobic activity to burn abdominal fat, core exercises can strengthen and tone the underlying muscles. Core exercises help with lower back problems.
Include Core Exercises To Your Workout Routine
As said above, there are many benefits of having a strong core. So, do yourself a favour and include them in your workout routine. Your overall health will thank you for it.
Thank you for reading this article. If you have any question, or want to leave a comment – impression, suggestion, your thoughts, experience… please do so in the comment section below, and I’ll be happy to help you out.