What is Core Strength?
Many people who start a fitness regime do it to look good. After all, who doesn’t want six-pack abs? But most people don’t realize that a strong midsection is also greatly beneficial. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a ripped stomach you can show off at the beach – and there are actually many reasons you should want to have a stronger core.
Your core muscles are perhaps one of the most important groups of muscles in your entire body. Not only does your core support your spine and your pelvis, but it also connects both the upper and lower body. A weak core can lead to a host of health and fitness issues.
Here’s what you should know about core strength: why it’s important, the benefits that come with having a strong core, and how you can work towards improving your core strength.
What is Your Core?
Your core muscles are the muscles found in your torso. They stretch from the base of your head all the way down to your pelvis. Not only do they include your rectus abdominis, or your abs, but they also include your traverse abdominis, your internal and external obliques, and your multifidus and erector spinae.
And your core also includes your hip flexors, which are the muscles located in front of your pelvis and upper thighs, and your hip abductors located in your thighs. Even areas of muscle that don’t seem connected to your core, like your gluteus medius and minimus, your gluteus maximus, hamstrings, piriformis muscles, and your pelvic floor, are part of this group.
With so many different muscles making up your core on all sides of your body, it’s no wonder why it’s important to have a strong torso. These muscles control so many aspects of your movement including bending, twisting, lifting and reaching, and a weak core can put more strain on other parts of your body.
There are plenty of benefits that come with strengthening your core muscles. Here are just a few.
A Reduced Risk of Injury
Whether you’re an athlete pushing yourself to achieve certain fitness goals or a busy person who wants to increase their muscle mass, a strong core can reduce your risk of painful injuries and help you recover from existing ones.
As we age, our muscles naturally deteriorate. That’s why it’s common for people to experience pain everywhere from their back to their knees as they get older. A weak core can exacerbate this and lead to back, hip, neck, and knee injuries, all of which can make everyday activities difficult. By strengthening your core muscles, you are promoting more efficient movement, which puts less strain on your body, thus reducing the risk of injury.
Improved Balance and Stability
Because the core muscles are located around your center of gravity, weak core muscles can result in poor balance and stability. And that comes with an increased risk of falling and injury.
Having a strong core means that your abdomen, hips, lower back, and pelvis are working in tandem to keep you upright. This leads to better balance and stability, which can come in handy for everyday activities as well as sports.
If you’re inclined to slouch, you know good posture isn’t as simple as it sounds. Straightening your back for even just a little while when you’re accustomed to slouching can result in sore muscles. But having bad posture can lead to a number of problems over time, including headaches, neck pain, foot pain, back pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
A strong core can do wonders to improve posture and support the spine by reducing stress on the spinal discs and joints. By strengthening your core, you’ll find it easier to stand up straight and you’ll experience less spinal, back and shoulder pain as you get older.
Strengthen Your Core With Good Form
Before you attempt so much as a single sit-up to strengthen your core muscles, you should know that when it comes to core exercises, form is much more important than repetition.
If your form is off, you can easily strain your core muscles. If you’re starting from scratch, try to focus on keeping a natural alignment rather than pushing for too many reps. Try “finding” and engaging your core while doing everyday activities like walking, driving, or sitting. By building strength slowly and practicing core awareness, you’ll find it gets easier as you go, and you’ll build up your strength over time.
Go Beyond Sit-Ups and Crunches
When you think of core exercises, your mind probably goes straight to sit-ups and crunches. These are the most well-known core exercises, and they can be great core-strengthening moves. But some people find them a bit boring and repetitive, especially if they’re done often.
You can get creative and try out some new moves to engage your core muscles; planks, bicycle crunches, leg lifts and tummy vacuums are just a few of the more creative core moves you can do. By mixing it up, you’ll avoid getting bored with your core exercises, which can help you stay on track.
Here are a few different types of workouts or exercises you can do that’ll help you build core strength in unique ways.
You might think that yoga is too low-impact and gentle to affect your core strength, but that’s incorrect. Sometimes a gentle workout can be even more effective than a strenuous one.
There are tons of yoga moves for various fitness levels that can help you isolate and activate your core muscles. Poses like reverse table top, side plank, tiger and one leg downward dog are great moves for strengthening the muscles around your torso.
If you want to spice up your core workout routine, try a TRX (total resistance exercise) workout. TRX training, which is a form of suspension weight training, involves suspending your body from a strap system and using your own body weight to strength train.
TRX workouts encourage you to keep your core engaged in order to maintain your balance and stability. Some people even refer to it as “yoga on ropes”. A TRX workout can be done standing up, making it a more efficient way to train.
Use a Bosu Ball
Exercise balls are a great way to strengthen your torso muscles – so why not incorporate them into your workouts? A Bosu ball is a half ball attached to a flat board which, when used in a floor workout, will allow you to challenge your stability. You can find a ton of Bosu ball core workout videos online to start on the path towards a stronger core.
If you want to have better posture, balance and stability, less pain, fewer injuries, and better overall physical fitness, get off the couch and start working your core right now! By working up your core strength slowly you will build a better foundation for your entire body, which will inspire a lifetime of good health and fitness.