We have all heard how important it is to train our core but do we really know why it’s so important. Is it just to look good and not be embarrassed by our love handles? Is it some term trainers use to dazzle and sell us on a program? Or is it something more? It’s definitely something more. It’s probably the most important training you can do to maintain a healthy body.
The core muscles, which include the rectus abdominis, and the external obliques, as well as the deep muscles of the erector spinae, the multifudus, the transverse abdominis and the internal obliques, make up the foundation of support for our body. Core strength is essential to getting and maintaining a healthy, fit body. These muscles provide stability for the spine and are needed for everyday tasks such as bending, reaching and twisting.
Does getting a strong core mean having 6-pack abs? Not exactly. While there’s nothing wrong with muscle definition in the abdominal area, there is more to core strength than the rectus abdominis (the muscles showing in the 6-pack look). Many people still think “the core” is limited to the abs and obliques, however, the deep muscles surrounding the spine provide the stabilization needed for just about all movement. These muscles also reinforce a healthy back and healthy hips. Without core strength we put increased strain on the back and hips which can lead to injury.
For those of us who want to become more athletic, or try to maintain a modest amount of athleticism as we get older, core strength is essential. Whether you spend your weekends on a court, a field , in a dance studio, or just chasing kids, core exercises will make a difference in how you perform and help to prevent injury. There’s a reason why professional athletes spend so much time working the core… it makes them better athletes and reduces their risk for injury.
To work these deep muscles you need to focus more on core stabilization exercises and less on the crunches. Here are 5 of my favorite core stabilization exercises.
Start in the pushup position with your forearms on the floor. Keep your abdomen tight and your body in a straight line. Do not let your midsection sag and hold this position for 20 to 60 seconds.
Lie on your left side with your left forearm on the floor and your feet together. Lift your body up so that your body is supported by your left forearm. Make a straight line with your body so that only your left forearm and left foot are touching the floor and hold that position for 10-30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
Swiss Ball Roll Out
Start by kneeling on the floor with the swiss ball directly in front of you. Place your hands on the top of the ball keeping the ball away from you at arm’s length. Keeping your body stiff from your knees to your head, lean forward allowing your arms to roll across the ball until your arms are in line with the rest of your body. Then roll your arms back and up into the starting position.
Swiss Ball Back Extension
Lie facedown with your abs and chest on a swiss ball and your legs straight behind you. Brace your feet against the wall for stability. Cross your arms and place your hands on your shoulders. Start with your head down and your back rounded. Lift your chest a couple inches off the ball and then return to the starting position.
Start with your hands and knees on the floor and place your hands about shoulder-width apart. Lift one hand up off the floor and extend your arm straight out parallel to the floor. At the same time, lift and extend your opposite leg so that your leg is also parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds and lower your arm and leg back to the start position. Repeat with the opposite side and continue alternating.
Add these exercises into your core workouts and start improving the foundation of your body. For more core exercises and workouts check out my website at www.WorkoutVillage.com.
All images are stills from workout videos on Steve Stark’s site, Workout Village.