We’ve all heard that having a solid core is essential for our overall health. But what does that mean? What does a solid core entail, and how do we get it?
First, it’s essential to understand that our core includes the muscles around our pelvis and trunk. Those are muscles we use countless times throughout our days, so if we do not take proper care of them, we are doing ourselves a disservice.
Strengthening our cores leads to health benefits, including better posture, improved balance, and increased stability. A stronger core also protects our internal organs, helps with our overall fitness, and improves our ability to do everyday activities. In addition, it can help maintain our health as we age, as the strength we get from these exercises can help reduce falls and injuries.
Conversely, according to the Mayo Clinic, “weak core muscles can lead to more fatigue, less endurance, and injuries.” They can also leave us “susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain, and muscle injuries.”
With all those benefits—and the possible dangers—who wouldn’t want to begin a program that strengthens the core?
Well, there’s no better time than right now. We made it through the holidays, and there are still a few months left before we need to fit into that bathing suit, so beginning a routine that includes core exercises will benefit us immensely. Plus, if we faithfully partake in the activities below, we will see incredible results come the summer when we want to wow our friends with our newly shaped bodies.
Now that we know the benefits of strengthening the core and the pitfalls of a weak body, what do we do?
We learn, and we act.
Five exercises to strengthen the core
1. Forearm plank
To properly do a forearm plank, rest your forearms on the floor. Make sure your elbows are directly underneath your shoulders with your hands straight out so that your arms are parallel to each other. Then extend your legs behind you with only your toes touching the floor. Make sure your body is straight. Squeeze your core, your glutes, and your quads. Make sure your back is straight, and you maintain that solid line from head to feet. No drooping! Keep your head straight and look down at your hands. Hold that position.
For those who have never attempted a plank before, this will likely be not easy at first, but as you gain strength, you will be able to hold the position longer. After your first attempt, set a baseline. If you could only keep it for five seconds, try ten the next day. Do that for a day or two, then increase the time as you are able. If you are a seasoned planker, try setting a new goal to improve your current time.
Push-ups are another fantastic way to strengthen your core. To do a proper push-up:
- Find a big part of your floor where you can stretch out.
- Place your hands on the floor just slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- Extend your arms fully so that they are straight, and straighten your legs as well.
- Lower your body to the ground without bending your back.
- Keep your body moving as one part.
- Repeat as many times as you can bend just your elbows.
For beginners, you may only be able to do one or two. Set a goal for five or six, and then every day does just one or two more.
This exercise uses all your core muscles. To begin, lie on your back with your legs straight out, and your arms extended. Keep your arms tight into your body and close to your ears rather than out to the side. To begin, contract your abs and press your back into the ground. Then point your toes, squeeze your glutes and your thighs, and at the same time, lift both your upper back and your legs off the ground. It would help if you got your hands and feet as close together as you could. Think about creating a V shape with your body. Do as many as you are able and set goals accordingly.
4. Rolling as if you’re a ball
Here’s an exercise that will be a little easier than planks or push-ups, that’s a bit of fun, and that also gets your heart rate up a bit. Essentially, you roll up into a ball and rock. To begin, sit on the floor with your knees bent. Wrap your arms around your legs and grab onto the outside of the ankles. Curl both your chest and head forward. Tighten your core muscles. Then gently roll back so that your shoulders touch the ground. Return to your seated position and repeat as you are able.
5. Leg raises
This is another easy strengthening exercise that will get those muscles working. First, lie on your back on the ground with your hands at your sides and your legs straight out. Keep your legs together and slowly raise them until the soles of your feet are pointed straight up to the sky. Then lower your legs slowly to the floor, but don’t touch the base. Hold your legs just a couple of inches over the floor to work those muscles. Continue doing as able.
These drills take just 10-15 minutes a day, but a regular exercise routine will result in better overall health, a stronger core, and a sculpted body you will want to show off. After this workout, cool off with either a PI protein water or energy water.