It seems like lately you can’t open a magazine without seeing an article about core strength and the importance of training this essential area. But while you have probably heard about core strength, are you like many people who are confused about what that really means and why it matters? I would say that most people specifically think about strong abs when others talk about the core. But really, the core consists of the muscles of the abdominals, back and hips. I like to say that the core includes everything from the shoulders down to the hips.
So why is core strength so important? Here are just a few reasons:
- Power – A strong core enables you to perform weight-bearing movements and reduce your risk of injury. It will also help alleviate unnecessary joint stress. It builds back strength and helps to prevent low back pain.
- Posture – Strengthening the core muscles will naturally improve your posture which will also help to alleviate back pain.
- Agility – a strong core leads to faster reaction time, better body awareness, improved coordination and flexibility. This will help you in your daily life by reducing the risk of injury and in performing everyday tasks.
- Stability – a strong core means better balance which can prevent falls and other accidents.
What is The Best Way To Increase Core Strength?
Group classes such as kickboxing, indoor cycling, and pilates are great core strengthening activities. Also, exercises that require constant abdominal stabilization should be performed on a regular basis. Try doing your crunches on a stability ball rather than the floor. Even sitting on a stability ball and lifting one leg at a time will target your core muscles. Balancing on a Bosu ball and performing squats and lunges is another way to engage these muscles and enhance the exercise. If you are already training your core but want some additional ideas on how to change things up, make sure to include these 5 effective core exercises below and you will learn something new and challenging to build up strength in your core muscles!
This exercise consists of sitting down on a flat surface with your legs out in front of you and twisting your torso to one side of your body and then to the other while alternating in a 180 range of motion to complete one full repetition. This exercise strengthens the internal and external obliques primarily but also affects the lower abdominal muscles very well also. Flexibility will also be improved and the overall range of mobility of the torso will be increased.
This exercise is executed by laying on a flat surface with your arms and legs spread apart, like a jumping jack, and then raising one arm and its opposite leg up in the air while trying to touch your fingertips to your ankle. Then, lower back and raise your other arm and its opposite leg to complete one full repetition. This crunch movement primarily targets the rectus abdominus, external obliques and the serratus anterior, while secondarily targeting the deltoids, hamstrings and the quadriceps. The benefits include an increased flexibility and improved posture.
Two-Leg Supine Elevated Bridge
This exercise is completed by laying flat on the floor and then bringing your legs in towards your buttocks until your knees are resting at about a 90 degree angle. Using your abs, glutes and hamstrings, raise your torso up into the air until it is perpendicular with your legs and forming a straight line. You will want to hold this position for about 30-60 seconds and then slowly lower your body back down to the floor. This exercise targets the hamstrings, calves, glutes, quadriceps and the lower abdominals. The benefit of this exercise is that while strengthening the core, it also strengthens many other muscle groups at the same time. It is a very effective exercise to build overall core strength.
This is a very popular exercise that you might be familiar with or have seen other people performing it in the gym. While laying flat on the floor, use your forearms to hold your body upright while your toes support the base of your body. This static position is to be held for intervals of time in accordance with your overall goals and ability. It can range anywhere between 30 seconds to several minutes depending on your fitness level. When first starting out, shoot for 30-60 seconds and then increase your overall time as you get stronger. The rectus abdominus, deltoids, biceps and triceps are targeted with this exercise. The benefits of this movement include strengthening the abdominal muscles and your entire core area.
This exercise is performed by positioning your body in an athletic stance and holding a medicine ball to one side of your body at about chest level. To begin, twist your hips and then use your arms, upper body and core to thrust the ball upwards while using the base of the body as a pivot. This exercise targets the rectus abdominus, serratus anterior, external obliques, gluteus medius, lattisimus dorsi, triceps, biceps, deltoids, pectoral majoris and the calves. It’s an excellent movement to build explosive power in your core muscles!
You can include all 5 of the above exercises into your core workout and shoot for 15-20 reps of each movement. You can either take a 1-2 minute rest after each exercise or if you really want a challenging workout, try going through each of the 5 exercises without any rest to complete a giant set. I guarantee your abs and core muscles will be screaming after this intense training session!
As with any other body part, make sure to include enough recovery time in between workouts in order to provide proper rest so your core muscles can fully recover before training them again. Give your muscles at least 48 hours in between workouts. If you’re still sore after 48 hours, that is a clear sign that your muscles are still in the recovery phase so be patient and give yourself another day of rest before hitting your core again. When these exercises are combined with a clean nutrient dense diet and a consistent cardio program, you will start seeing serious definition in your abs and overall core muscles!