We all know the importance of regular exercise, and you most likely know that keeping your muscles strong and toned is key to your overall health. What you may not realize is that, when it comes to increasing and maintaining muscle strength, working your ‘core’ is vital to your success.

Core strengthening exercises are important for everyone, not only bodybuilders or those out to impress with their six-pack abs.  A strong core trains the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony, leading to better balance and stability.  A strong core can help reduce the risk of back injury, alleviate back pain, aid mobility in the spine, and improve posture.

You may think that your core is composed of only your abdominal muscles. In reality, your core musculature is a series of muscles going far beyond your abdominals and includes all the muscles in your trunk…..everything but your arms and legs. Your core even includes your diaphragm and pelvic floor.

When you do any sort of movement, from swinging a golf club to mopping the floor, your core muscles act to stabilize your body and transfer power to get the job done. A strong core helps prevent injuries.  Research studies have shown that athletes who have a strong core have fewer injuries.

Knowing the benefits of a strong core, what sort of exercises do you need to incorporate into your health and wellness program to get one?

You’ll be relieved to know that doing endless sit ups and crunches is not recommended. In fact, these exercises don’t do much to strengthen your core and they can be bad for your back as well, as they put unnecessary stress on the discs in your spine.

While the popular plank and side-plank exercises are good for core strength, if you are a beginner, your best approach is to begin slowly and recondition your muscles with these five simple exercises I’m going to outline. I’ve also included a video below so you can see exactly how to do them.  Note that these exercises are geared towards the beginner level.  You can include more advanced exercises as you build strength.

  • Tummy Vacuums – good if you sit for long periods of time, you are a woman who has had children or you just haven’t been active for awhile.
  • Clam Shells – this one will strengthen your glutes or ‘butt’ muscles.
  • Dead Bugs – (don’t let the name put you off!) – this exercise will build stability in your hips and trunk.
  • Anti-band rotation – This is the one movement most people don’t know about incorporating into their routine, yet it’s essential.
  • The Bird Dog – This is a super exercise which combines a lot of movements into one.

Ok, that’s a description of the five exercises and here’s a video I like from the JungleFit folks that demonstrates how to do these.

Comments, thoughts, questions?  I love to hear from you so leave them below.  I’ll be sure to answer.

Categories: Fitness