5 exercises to improve your core strength
The term "core strength" is one of the first few words/phrases you hear when you join a gym or a fitness class. But not many of us bother to ask the instructor or the coach about what is really means to have a strong core or why exactly it would be helpful. To begin with, your core is your entire support system. Whether you want to get out of the bed, run a mile, take a walk down the street or simply bend over to grab a bucket, your core muscles support your body in carrying everyday activities. Most importantly, they help you stay upright. It really is the center of all your movements. Thereby, your fitness instructor will always advise you to build enough core strength before you start building strength at other places. Having a strong core helps us prevent injuries and give you better balance provided that we do all exercises correctly and safely.
Let's take a look at a few exercises that fitness experts swear by:
Planks are super simple and designed to engage the entire body by creating overall tension and strength. The plank not only conditions the core but also support proper posture and improves your balance.
Here's how to do it:
- Rest your toes and forearms on the floor in a way that your body forms one straight line
- Keep your lower back straight and do not drop your butts or hike them toward the ceiling
- Now position your head so that your neck is in a neutral position and your eye should be looking at your hands
- Hold this position for as long as you can. Ideally, anywhere between 30 seconds to 2 minutes is considered to bring effective results
- Repeat 3 times
2. Butterfly Sit Ups
This exercise targets more than just the mid-section of your body. Also known as, Butterfly Crunches, this exercise helps improve back flexibility, aid in digestion as well as open your hip rotators.
Here's how to do it:
- Lie on your back with arms extended past your head
- Bend your knees and position the soles of your feet facing each other
- Now raise your torso to a sitting position as you reach forward and try to touch your ankles with both hands
- Slowly lower your torso back to the starting position
- Repeat 15 times
3. Dead Bug
If you are looking for a quick, and a flat ticket to a strong core, then "Dead Bug" is what you need to add to your fitness routine. It's one of the simplest core buildings strengthening exercise that works on your deep inner core without putting extra strain on your back.
How to do it:
- Lie on your back with your arms extended toward the ceiling and knees bent 90 degrees over hips
- Keep your calves parallel to the floor
- Take a deep breath in and extend your right arm and left leg away from you. Do not arch your lower back
- Slowly return your arm and leg to the starting position
- Immediately repeat on the opposite side
4. High boat to low boat
This might look like a challenging exercise, but if you understand the technique, it will strengthen both your upper and lower abs and train your core stability. Every big and small muscle in your abdominals is engaged during this exercise.
How to do it:
- For High Boat, sit up straight with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground
- Keep your legs together and slowly lift them off the floor until they form a "V" with your torso at 45 degree
- Keep your back flat, and balance on your tailbone for three deep breaths
- Now slowly, lower your middle back to the floor and straighten your legs while lowering your upper body
- Keep your abs engaged, legs hovered a few inches off the floor. This is a lower boat
- Hold this position for one breath
- Typically, you want to do 3 sets of 10 reps
- Remember to focus on your breathing as you perform this exercise
The Jackknife is a real test for a strong core. As you include this in your fitness routine, you'd notice yourself becoming more flexible as the time passes by. This exercise requires you to utilize nearly a dozen muscles and stay stabilized throughout. To maximize the benefit you can your instructor may recommend you to buy sports products such as stability ball or power wheel.
How to do it:
- Lie on your back with your arms stretched out behind your head
- Keep your arms and legs raised throughout the exercise
- Exhale and bend at the waist, bringing your arms and legs closer to meet above your midriff. At this point, your legs should be lifted approximately 45 degrees off the ground
- Inhale and lower your arms and legs back to the starting position
- Repeat 5-10 times
....but you need to do this correctly.
Having a strong core is just one part of the story, the majority of people don't know how to 'turn on their core" for optimal use. This could be due to a sedentary lifestyle or bad posture. It's all about increasing the awareness of different kinds of muscles and how each exercise listed above can help activate muscle groups to make sure the core is actively engaged throughout the workout sessions.