Nowadays, it’s easy to get beaten down and succumb to a sedentary lifestyle, abandon exercise or abstain from it altogether. However, to get through our daily routines and meet the demands of life, you need strength, endurance, agility and the ability to resist fatigue, frustrations and distractions. This guide offers knowledge about the best core exercises moves that will improve physical and mental health to ensure a productive day-to-day existence
What’s at your core?
Core is a popular buzzword that most people often mistakenly refer to as the abs. But core is so much more than abs. Core refers to the midsection of the body which includes the following muscles:
- Erector spinae: set of muscles that straighten and rotate your back
- Rector abdominis: also known as your “abs.”
- Obliques: these are found on the sides of your torso and help you twist (and shout).
- Gluteal muscles: also known as your “glutes” or “butt” or “badonka-donk” or “General of the Fartus Legions”
Major Benefits of Having a Strong Core
- Improves digestion and elimination: The process of peristalsis (food moving through the digestive tract) is greatly improved when you practice core exercises. This is due to the actual movement of the exercise itself as well as improving the overall function of the organs and tissues associated with digestion. Elimination is also improved.
- Reduces back pain/ protects the back: Weak core put unnecessary strain on your lower back both in just holding your spine in a good stable posture as well as for everyday movements like bending over to pick something up getting in and out of a car. You need strength in your core to do this without hurting your back. Having strong abs also helps to reduce or eliminate lower back pain.
- Improves athletic performance: Most movement begins with the core. Having toned abdominals helps your entire body function optimally. When you regularly practice core exercises you will dramatically increase endurance and power throughout your entire body. A strong core will also help protect you from injury during athletic activities.
- Good posture: Strengthening your core will also help you keep good posture which means that your spine I more likely align properly. These core exercises improve the functioning and movement of your entire body as well as your nervous system.
- Improves your breathing: The more toned your abs are the more they can assist in breathing. Try this little experiment. Sit upright in a chair and place your hands on your belly. Take a slow deep inhalation and then a long slow exhalation. Notice how your belly moves out on the inhalation and out on the exhalation. What makes this movement possible is your abs.
- Helps maintain proper functioning of the stomach organs: When you exercise your abdominal area, the organs of this area get an internal massage. The organs are squeezed and soaked in fresh blood. In yoga, this is referred to as a “tonifying” effect on the organs. Metabolic wastes are squeezed out and fresh blood with oxygen and nutrients are brought back into the organs.
- Helps with pregnancy/childbirth: Exercising before pregnancy as well as during pregnancy will make for easier childbirth. It will also help your reduce stress, help keep you healthy and after you give birth, your body will return to its original form a lot quicker! Note: There are many stomach exercises that should be avoided or modified during pregnancy. Working with a knowledgeable fitness professional is highly recommended until you know which exercises to include and which to avoid.
- Increases muscle mass: Challenging any muscle group with resistance exercises will build muscle. This is highly desirable not only for strength but because the more muscle you have on your body the more calories you will burn, even at rest!
- Enhances overall looks: Working your core helps to flatten your belly and adds to a long lean look. If you watch your diet and add some exercise then you might just find your 6-pack too! By including ab and stomach exercises in your workout you probably burn more calories too. And when you look good and feel good, your self-confidence and self-esteem can soar!
- Prevent hernias: Hernias are often caused by weak abdominal muscles. Simply put, strong abs will greatly decrease your chances of developing a hernia.
- Less pressure on your joints: Having a strong core helps to stabilize your body. This keeps your body balanced and unwanted pressure off your joints, which can lead to injury and pain.
- Improves your energy: According to some eastern practices the stomach is the seat of will power and making sure that this area is strong, flexible and healthy will allow energy to flow properly. Test this out for yourself. Do ten minutes of core exercises and notice how your energy level improves!
Read more 7 Dumbbell Exercises That Work Your Core
5 Best Core Exercise for Beginners
Creating tension in your abs primes your body to maximally contract all of its muscles. This is a very useful ability when sprinting, jumping and lifting weights.
How to do it: Start by getting onto all fours and prop yourself up on your forearms. Make sure your arms are right under your shoulders and your fingers are pointing straight ahead. Now walk your feet backwards into plank (high push up position). You want your torso, hips and legs all in one line—don’t let your hips drop or lift too high. Press your hands into the floor and lift up into your shoulders. Take your belly button towards your spine and stretch through your heels. Once you feel everything tighten, squeeze even harder and take big, deliberate breaths as you plank. To increase the challenge, squeeze harder and exhale more air with each breath as you hold the position.
When to do it: at the end of your daily warmup, or between sets of compound strength movements like squats, rows, presses, and deadlifts
The deadbug protects your lower back mid-movement and keeps you from wasting any energy. Furthermore, it teaches you to keep your trunk stable while moving the rest of your body.
How to do it: Lie on your back, with your hips and knees bent to 90°. Raise both arms toward the ceiling. Pull your lower back to the floor to eliminate the gap. Start by pressing one leg out, and tapping the heel to the floor. As you extend one leg, exhale as much as you can, keeping your lower back glued to the floor. When you can’t exhale any more, pull your knee back to the starting position. Make this more difficult by holding a weight in your hands, or by lowering the opposite arm and leg.
When to do it: Perform 2-3 sets of four reps for each side at the beginning of every workout.
The hip bridge forces your glutes, lower back, and hamstrings—together known as the posterior chain—to support your weight. Developing your glutes is vital for evenly developing both major core muscle groups.
How to do it: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Brace the front of your core, push your knees forward, and drive your hips up. Hold this top position for 1-2 seconds, making sure you evenly squeeze your abs and glutes.
When to do it: Perform two sets of 10-20 reps.
This workout is effective at improving your postural integrity (i.e. straight spine, strong core) and is also good at training your core to brace when performing high-intensity movements.
How to do it: Pick up two kettlebells or two dumbbells as if you were performing a heavy deadlift: Hinge at the hips, bend at the knees, and brace your core to protect your back. Once in the top position, walk slowly and fight the urge to rush, shrug, slouch, or lean forward. You can do the exercise with two weights (called a “farmer’s walk” or “farmer’s carry”), or it can be loaded unilaterally (often called a “suitcase” carry).
When to do it: Pick a load heavy enough that you can’t carry it for a minute. Carry the weight for 3-5 sets, with 1-2 minutes rest in between sets. Perform light carries daily as a quick warmup.
This exercise activates major abdominal muscles, including the external obliques on the sides of the abdomen. It’s good for developing an appealing stomach musculature as well as strong and functional abs
How to do it: Lie on your back with something stable and heavy like a bench at arm’s length behind your head. Position yourself so that when you hold on to it, your arms are completely outstretched. Bend your knees and plant your feet. Press your lower back into the floor. Exhale, and, as you breathe out, slowly start to pull your knees in toward your chest, curling your pelvis off the floor. Your breath should dictate the speed of the exercise. As you inhale, slowly roll back to the starting position.
When to do it: The reverse crunch is an effective way to reset your hips before a lower-body training session
Integrating core strengthening exercises into your lifestyle system produces not only cosmetic changes but also increases energy, sharpens your mental edge, and reduces and prevents nagging pains in your back, knees, and hips. But before you incorporate this into your routine, consult your health care provider and they can show you how to safely tone and train thy core.
How about focusing on another part of your body? Maybe glutes? Click HERE!