Before we talk about how to strengthen the core muscles, we need to talk about the misconceptions about what the core muscles are, and what people do wrong generally. When people think of the core, they think about the abs, the six-pack, and to build up that six-pack. They will train their abs every day, and only do exercises like the crunch and the sit-up. Those exercises are a waste of time. Why? Its because when you’re doing crunches, sit-ups, you’re using momentum to get your body off the ground. If you then don’t have proper strength in your core, there’s a chance you will be overusing your lower back performing the exercises. This can lead to you injure yourself in the neck and lower back area. So, stop wasting your time and stop doing crunches and sit-ups when trying to strengthen the core muscles right now.
The importance of strong core muscles
First and foremost, let’s talk about what the core is. The core is made up of three main parts. The first part is the front, which is the rectus abdominis, the ab muscles. The second part is the sides, the obliques, the transverse abdominals, also known as the corset muscles. Lastly, you have the lower back muscles. So, if you want to strengthen the core muscles, you need to improve all three parts. You must strengthen the front, your abs. You must strengthen your sides, your obliques. And you need to strengthen your lower back.
Having strong core muscles will make it easier to do certain activities such as swing a golf club, get something from the top shelf and bend down to put on your shoes. Strong core muscles are also crucial for athletes, both professional and amateurs. Take cyclists, for example, weak core muscles can lead to more fatigue, less endurance, and more injuries. Weak core muscles can also lead to you having bad and poor posture, lower back pain, and prone to other muscles injuries.
Strengthening the core muscles may also help improve lower back pain
Lower back pain is a chronic problem for many Americans today – especially for those people who are spending long hours every day sitting behind a desk. Those long hours sitting in a chair and typing on the computer can put substantial strain on the lower back, primarily if one’s core muscles aren’t engaged properly. By strengthening your core muscles, you can scientifically decrease the intensity of the back pain or even eliminate it altogether.
Are there any tasks that you put off because you know that they have the potential to cause back pain? Do you find yourself struggling to handle gardening, basic chores around the house, or bending and lifting something from the floor? Improving your core strength will decrease the pain you experience, and make all those tasks much more manageable, leaving you feeling like you can accomplish anything, instead of feeling as though you need to beg for help to complete the simplest activities. And, as you improve your core strength, you will improve your balance and build overall stability, and you will be less likely to injure yourself.
When improving your core strength, you will be able to perform the same routines you do every day with lower risk, both acute injury and repetitive stress damage. Not only will you be able to keep up with your daily activities, but you will also decrease downtime and make it easier to do the things you need to do every day and in the future.
Building core strength is an essential part of maintaining your body at any age. As you get older, core strength becomes even more critical to stopping the pain and maintaining your performance, not just in the sports and activities that you love, but in every area of your life.
How to strengthen the core muscles, without going to the gym
Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world and are great when you’re trying to strengthen the core muscles, due to the practicality and simplicity of getting stronger using only your own body weight. The other thing that makes bodyweight exercises perfect is the fact that they don’t require a gym. You can perform the exercises in the comfort of your home, on any hour of the day.
Three great bodyweight exercises for core strength:
1. The Forearm Plank
The absolute best exercise to strengthen your core muscles using nothing but your bodyweight is the plank. Why? Because the plank requires a small-time investment on your part and offer the chance to achieve significant results in a relatively short time. Another reason why the plank is the best exercise for your core is that it can be performed in several different variations.
The first and probably the most common plank variation is the forearm plank. When performing the forearm plank you want to keep the elbows tight and underneath the shoulders, pressing through your forearms and tuck the tailbone down towards the ground while pulling the belly button in. Hold this position for as long as you can.
The second variation of the plank is the neutral plank in which you press into the hands. Keep your arms nice and straight, keep the wrists underneath the shoulders, hands shoulder-width apart facing forward, and your feet hip-width apart. Don’t forget to tuck in your tailbone and pull in your belly button. Hold for as long as you can.
The third and last variation of the regular plank, which is a little more advanced variation, is the neutral plank shift with reach. Same as before, keep your arms nice and straight, keep the wrists underneath the shoulders, hands shoulder-width apart facing forward, and your feet hip-width apart, tuck in your tailbone and pull in your belly button. And now to the more advanced elements of the exercise. Protract your scapula and shift the weight from shoulders and lift opposing arm and reach arm as high as possible. If it’s to difficult for you, try performing the exercise on your knees instead.
2. The Side Plank
The second exercise to strengthen the core muscles is the side plank. Few moves areas right for your core as this exercise. Performing an exercise either side of the body separately help identify weaknesses and imbalances. If you struggle to hold the side plank on one side, but it’s easy in the other, there’s an imbalance that you need to work on. Now to the exercise. Starting off, keep the elbow of the side you’re working on underneath the shoulder, hips up off the floor, and press into the outer edge of your foot. You want to keep a nice long line starting from the top of your head and running all the way down to your feet. Hold for as long as you can, or set time, repeat on the other side.
3. Boat Pose
The third exercise you want to do to strengthen the core muscles is the boat pose. The first main thing that you got to focus on when performing the boat pose is your back. Start off by sitting down, keep your back straight, you don’t want to lose your posture at any time while performing the exercise.
Grab the back of your thighs with both hands, keeping the knees and feet together. Roll your shoulders and slowly lean back as far as you can without tipping over, and from here, lift your legs slowly off the floor until they are parallel with the floor and straighten your arms and hold them in front off you. Hold this position for as long as you can, relax, and repeat.
Note, if your chest drops in when performing the exercise, you want to keep lifting the chest, keep bringing the chest up and the thighs closer together. This way, you will be engaging the lower back and the sides as well, making this exercise a complete core exercise.
I’d like to leave you with a final tip on breathing. You might not know this, but the way you breathe has a direct impact on your core. Most people “shoulder breathe” by elevating their shoulders and lifting their rib cages to let air in. This is the incorrect way of breathing correctly because the diaphragm can’t do its job effectively. It conjointly limits the function of the inner core — and the muscles that are affected most powerfully by breath. Be conscious of your breathing and breathe in the air into the bottom point of your belly. Breathe this way when lifting, walking, sitting, reading, and talking. Seriously, it’s essential!
I hope you enjoyed reading this and if you have any questions about core strength and core exercises, leave a comment down below.