What is The Core?
The core is the middle of the body and consists of mainly the abdominal muscles. Take your finger and poke your stomach, now envision the Pillsbury dough boy saying “Woohoo”. Congratulations, you found your core. When an exercise professional says “core exercise” they are most likely talking about abdominal (or tummy) exercise. Think crunches, but don’t let that be your end all, because there are so many more things to do for a healthy core! The abs are made up of a few different abdominal muscles including the one that runs down the middle responsible for the six-pack look called the Recuts Abdominus. There are also the Obliques and the Transverse Abdominus that run at angles from the hips to the ribs. IF you only do crunches you will miss these angles of the abs completely. They are responsible for rotation movements like a soccer kick, a golf swing, baseball swing and many other types of sports specific activities and activities of daily living. Make sure you add a rotational exercise in there somewhere to target those obliques! Not convinced that you should be doing core exercises on the regular? Let me elaborate!
6 Reasons you should consider adding core exercises to your program
- Improve your posture- Having strong core muscles and strong lower trapezius muscles will help support your spine against the pull of gravity. These muscles act as accessory muscles to the primary postural muscles that include the hamstrings, quadrates lumborum and erector spinea. The abdominals attach to the pelvis and the rib cage, holding the stomach contents in and supporting optimal alignment.
- Protect your back- Having better posture will help decrease stress on the spine. That means less wear and tear on your discs for lower risk of herniations, pinched nerves and over all back pain. The core muscles act as a brace around the spine creating pressure and stability.
- Improve your balance and stability- When your midsection is supported and stable, your over all balance and stability will improve. The spine will stay in neutral while your tight core lifts and supports you through motion.
- Improve mobility of your extremities- While balance improves, your ability to move your extremities will improve. The arms and legs will be free to move in wider ranges and angles with more torque and power. More motion without causing the whole body to be unstable. Think in terms of a longer golf drive, a more powerful tennis serve and a more powerful, accurate kick for soccer, kickball or kickboxing.
- Improve your ability to breathe- Like previously stated, the abdominal muscles attach to the rib cage and the pelvis. They help to pull the ribs down to allow the diaphragm to be curved and work properly. This may be a little too science for you, but your diaphragm attaches to your ribs and your spine. If those two things are not in alignment, chances are that the diaphragm is pulled tight without the flexibility it needs to help with respiration. Maybe you are feeling winded from lack of diaphragm movement during exercise instead of the actual exercise itself. Find out more about posture and respiration HERE and HERE.
- Decrease your risk of heart disease- Doing core exercise is a key part in reducing your waist size along with cardiovascular exercise. Keeping your core strong while losing weight will help you trim up your waistline. A waistline at or above 40 inches for men and at or above 35 inches for women greatly increases your risk factors for cardiovascular disease and heart failure. Don’t know your waist measurement? Find a flexible tape measure or a string and a ridged tape measure. Measure around your waist at the height of your belly button, making sure to touch the tape to your skin firm but not squeezing. Find out more about waist circumference measurements and risk factors at the American Heart Association HERE.
Try these exercises from ACE fitness to help improve your core awareness and strength! Try adding a few core exercises to your morning routine or at the end of your work out (don’t have a work out yet? Search the exercise section of my blog to get inspiration and find out how to start). I recommend doing core exercises in at least 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions (or 3 sets of plank holds to exhaustion). You can do these every day or just a few times a week depending on your schedule. Like with any exercise program, go slow and prioritize form. Discontinue any exercise that causes pain or discomfort and consult your doctor if pain continues.