Core strength is not simply about having a six pack of abdominals to parade around the gym or the beach. Building your abdominal core to increase your core strength can change your posture, your pain and your well being, and should therefore be a part of everyone’s exercise regimen – no matter whether you’re largely sedentary, or a marathon runner. Core strength can give you good posture, which, in turn, helps your body function better everyday; without pain it is easier to get the most out of life and core strength is an important player in our overall wellbeing.
Why we need it
Aside from twitching our toes, most body movements start with the core. Let’s look at a person dancing for instance. From an outside perspective we see arms and legs moving about the dance floor, but it is a mistake to believe the extremities are doing the fancy footwork. Once we peer beneath the skin to trace where the movement starts, we see that the force propelling the arms and legs is in reality coming from the core muscles of the torso. Through activation of muscles and tendons all interconnected throughout the body the core provides the stability for the arms and legs to do their thing, and lets weight and force be transferred as needed to different muscles groups.
Having a core that is stable and strong lets you move; whether it is rising out of bed in the morning, reaching for cereal high the cupboard, running for the train or sitting at your desk. Without the core in place, none of those actions would be able to occur. The core is essential for physical well being, and poor posture and back pain is your body’s way of communicating that something is wrong.
Benefits of having it
The benefits of core strength start with having a pain-free body. By having a strong core, the spine is supported to be upright when sitting or standing, and the organs are protected. It is harder to become injured if the core muscles are strong and able to cope with the various demands of life.
That getting-old groaning sound people make when they do simple actions like getting up from an armchair, or bending over to tie shoelaces can be reduced or even eliminated in some cases with a strong core. With a strong core, bending and stretching are easy and doesn’t take up as much energy anymore.
If you enjoy sport, by spending some time on your core muscles you will find that your overall performance will improve. After all, strength, agility and balance all begin and end with the core.
You don’t need to be a yoga devotee to get the benefits of balance. A good core strength can help you avoid those clumsy moments when you are pushed off balance. A strong core can help you correct the body and avoid a fall.
For some people, core strength is about physique. While a six-pack is not necessary to have a working, strong core, at the same time it can be a great motivator for increasing workouts.
How to get it
Getting a good core takes some time and effort but after doing exercise regularly for a few weeks, workouts feel so good that you won’t want to miss them. Find the specific exercises that you enjoy, and after two months of mastering them switch to new moves to keep the body working harder. Here is a selection of core exercises to get you started – no equipment necessary – just your dedication.
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Old fashioned crunches
Lie on the ground with your hands at the base of your skull and knees bent. Use your tummy muscles to pull your head and shoulders off the ground. Keep the shoulders flat and the neck safely tucked into the chin. Repeat 5 sets of 10.
Check out the Togu Redondo Therapy Core Stability Ball
Find a stable wall and stand against it. Slide down until you are in a sitting position with legs at 90 degrees. (If this your first time, you can work up to this angle). All you need to do is hold the position. To increase the workout put your left ankle over the right knee and vice versa. Start with 20 second holds, and work your way up to 1 minute.
Lie on the ground with your legs bent, and knees and feet hip width apart. Use the tummy to lift the core off the ground to form a bridge. For added effect, squeeze the buttocks at the top, and release. Repeat 5 sets of 10.
On your hands and knees make sure your knees are hip width apart and that hands are shoulder width apart. Lift and stretch the opposite leg and arm out using the strength from your core. You want your limbs as high as your hips and shoulders, not above. Hold for 5 counts and swap sides. Repeat 5 sets of 10. To increase the intensity, instead of simply lowering your arms and legs back to starting position, crunch them into the centre 3 times.
Stand straight with legs hip distance apart. Use the core to pull the left knee towards your chest. At the same time, bring the right elbow across the body to meet the left knee working out the obliques. Make the downward movement count by using your core and put strength into the movement. Repeat for the opposite side of the body. To increase intensity, jump or hop as you lift each leg in the air.