Core Strength: Why, What & How
Everyone wants ‘abs’, a full six pack would be even better, right? But what we should all really be striving for is a rock solid core. What is your core and why do we want it to be strong? Your core is the middle section of your body- it includes your abs, oblique’s, lower back, even glutes- it’s what connects your upper body and your lower body. It’s also what protects your spine. The primary purpose of your core is to stabilize the rest of your body and not to move (unless in a controlled and specific environment). Think about any movement you do in your day to day- sitting, standing, walking, picking something up- how much harder and more awkward would those movements be if you couldn’t hold yourself up? That’s thanks to your core. And, the stronger your core is the more the rest of your body can handle. This is where weightlifting, even running, comes into play. A great definition of the core’s purpose is “the ability to not change shape even when under stress from intensity and/or load.” This means your ability to maintain your posture while squatting, pressing, pulling, running, jumping, etc. The bottom line is, the stronger your entire core the better weightlifter, crossfitter, runner you’ll be. The more weight your body will be able to move in a solid and safe position. And that’s what we all really want, right?
Safe- this gets me to reason number two for a strong core. The stronger core you have the less likely you are to injure yourself, especially your back. Your core is the main stabilizer for your spine and it protects your spine when you are in motion. Don’t want to injure your back? Strengthen your core first.
Are you convinced that you need to work on your core strength yet? If not, let me know we’ll talk about it personally, if yes, keep reading on the best ways to do so.
1) Hollow holds!: We don’t make you do these just to be mean. Lying on your back, you want your belly button pulled in towards your spine, pressing your low back to the ground. If needed, start with your legs straight up in the air and you should feel the small of your back flatten, lower your legs slowly until the small of your back wants to arch, you need to maintain contact with the ground the entire time. Your shoulders are pulled off the ground slightly to create a hollow position with your body.
1) Planks: Basically a hollow hold in a push up position; make sure your bellow button is pulled in towards your spine, glute muscles are squeezed and all your weight is not over your shoulders; your back should not be arched/sagging but almost very slightly rounded.
3) Side Planks: Maintain the hollow position here as well, belly button tucked in, also focusing on keeping the bottom hip from sagging to the floor.
4) Bird Dogs: These are harder than they look when done properly (demo): on hands and knees, pull belly button in towards spine, extend opposite arm and leg but only so far that your low back does not arch/sag. Your spine should stay completely neutral and abs/belly button tucked tight. Use a mirror or ask a friend to make sure you are doing them properly.
5) Deadbugs: Similar to a bird dog but on your back; like the hollow hold pull your low back to the ground, belly button in, hands and legs straight up in the air. Lower opposite arm and leg only as far as you can maintain contact with your whole back to the ground. Do these slowly maintain the hollow position the entire time.
6) Supermans: lying on your stomach, hands straight out in front, contract your glutes and low back to raise your arms/chest and legs off the ground as high as you can and come back down. Keep your spine neutral (head in a straight line), no need to look where you are going.
While doing all of those exercises above you don’t want to forget about one of the other muscles that make up your core: glutes. During all exercises you should aim to keep your glutes engaged (think squeeze your butt) the entire time.
All of these exercises can be done at home, before or after your workout, but make sure to take a few minutes every day to work on this and we promise you’ll reap the benefits! And hey, contributing to those six pack abs never hurts!