If you’ve read any fitness article ever written, you’ve probably been bombarded with the term “core strength” before. And certainly, you more than likely have some idea of what phrase is referring to.
The abdominal muscles, right? Not far off, but not the whole picture either, as there is a lot more to core training than just getting a flat stomach, with plenty of other reasons as to why this area is essential to your overall well-being.
What Is Your Core?
Your core is a complex series of muscles which connect your upper and lower body together. The list of these associated groups is quite extensive, and include your pelvic muscles, abdominal muscles, spinal erectors, and thoracic diaphragm.
What Makes It So Important?
As mentioned above, this anatomical area is located in such a central position to your entire frame (hence the name “core”) that it is involved with almost every movement you make. Sportspeople know that a powerful core plays a crucial role in golf, baseball, swimming, running, tennis, volleyball, and rowing, to mention very few.
That said, this is not just a region dedicated to competitive activities. Every time you pick up a heavy object, put on your shoes, vacuum your house, or even stand up, you are accessing these muscles. As soon as you bend, twist, reach, or lift, your core muscles are commanding the whole operation.
Studies agree that the higher your core stability, the lower your chance of injury, and when considering that almost everything you do is core related, the statement does make a lot of sense. And yet, even this isn’t the full story.
Your core also cushions your internal organs whilst working to keep your spine straight. This support ensures the weight of your physique is not carried out by your bones alone, and is rather distributed evenly as nature intended.
Without this structure, you would very quickly lose balance and fall over, which would be embarrassing. Simply put, a steady core translates into a firm posture, which not only makes you seem like a confident individual, but also helps you to breath much easier as well as avoiding many back related issues.
Finally, there is the additional vanity benefit which is why most people flock to core training in the first place. Yes, it’s true, proper core targeting will tighten your tummy, and you’ll look even better in your swimwear.
How Do You Improve Your Core Strength?
Unfortunately, so many people think that performing a thousand sit-ups is the key for developing a stronger core, but this approach skips over many of the other important muscles this region encompasses. Here are three of the best exercises to get you started.
For those who crave weight training, deadlifting will encourage the awareness of your core’s central power. Hold the barbell with straight arms, palms facing towards your body, knees slightly bent, and feet hip-width apart. Slowly lean your torso downwards by using your chest, keeping your back straight, lowering the weights in front of your legs, and then straightening up to repeat the motion.
However, please be very conscious of your knees when participating in any weight lifting exercises. Always rest if you feel discomfort, or wear a brace for additional protection. Check out this list for more information on how to relieve pain with a knee brace.
2. Side Plank
This is a great exercise for the often overlooked smaller core muscles. Lie on your side, and then with one arm bent between your shoulder and the floor, push upwards towards the ceiling, balancing on the edge of one foot whilst keeping your other hand on your hip. This is a notoriously more difficult move than your average plank, so do not be discouraged if you can only hold yourself up for a few seconds, just keep at it!
Ok, so if you insist on crunching your abs all day, there is a better core specific method you can apply.
The benefits of using a wobble cushion in your routine are well documented, as one of the easiest ways to introduce instability into your program, grinding your stomach and training a solid center whilst forcing you to maintain your balance. It can also be a lot of fun.
Hopefully this article has helped you better understand the importance of this often misunderstood group of muscles. Just remember that if you’re looking for a quick abdominal fix, core training is only half of your battle and you’d be better off re-approaching your diet and implementing aerobic exercises along with the above suggestions.
However, if you want to successfully complete everyday tasks without throwing your back out, then core training should be the central focus point of your practice. Literally.