CORE STRENGTH: THE IMPORTANCE OF BUILDING A POWERFUL CORE

Building a strong core is fundamental for any kind of exercise. It might sound like a simple job to do some abs every day and get a strong, functional core but is that really all that there is to it?

WHAT is core strength?

When talking about core strength, we often think about our abdominal muscles and the sought-after six pack. It’s not entirely incorrect but, in fact, core is much more than that. It involves all the muscles within your body’s midsection area; including transversus abdominis, obliques, erector spinae, lower lats, multifidus, and many more. Core is basically everything except your arms and legs.

The core muscles work as a stabilizer for the entire body. They either transfer force between extremities or initiate the movement themselves. Hence, your core bridges your body together.

“Core is the center unit of all movement and strength within the body.”

WHY should you train your core?

The benefits of having a powerful core are numerous. You should not work on your core solely for superficial reasons but rather think of it as a way to develop improved health and comfort. Let’s take a look at a few advantages of having a powerful core:

  • The core muscles control your pelvis. Therefore, improved core function and coordination prevent injuries by protecting your lumbar spine. This may save you from experiencing pain and developing lower back damage in the long run.
  • A strong core will also do wonders for your posture. The core muscles stabilize your spine, and if these muscles are weak, your spine won’t have enough support to maintain a naturally good posture. Standing up straight not only looks great but also saves you from countless structural problems.
  • Your core muscles efficiently transfer force from the lower body to the upper body and vice versa, while simultaneously acting as  a stabilizer. If maintaining a straight line (good posture), the force is more effectively transferred. These facts are essential to all other movements, such as walking, running, jumping, and lifting.
  • Finally, building a strong core from the very beginning may even lead to a good looking, flat stomach! Don’t try to rush it – be patient and start by developing the strength of your deep core muscles first.

HOW to train your core?

Core strength can be developed by doing specific exercises. There are various ways to train your core but a good rule of thumb is that in order to build a strong and functional core, it should be trained as a whole.

It basically means that doing isolation exercises only, such as ab crunches and back extensions, will not do the job alone. To take advantage of the major function of the core, you should rather opt for combining traditional ab/back exercises with functional training – I’m talking about planks, squats, pushups etc.

Some examples of effective core strengthening exercises include:

  • Wheel roll outs
  • Leg raises
  • Medicine ball / kettlebell twists
  • Planks & side planks
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Superman
  • Deadlifts

A QUICK PLANK WORKOUT

To get started right away, here’s a little plank challenge for all you strong core hunters over there! Remember to focus on keeping your core engaged and butt squeezed the entire time.

For beginners: Complete 1-2 rounds, holding 30 seconds on each position.
For intermediate:
Complete 1-2 rounds, holding 60 seconds on each position.
For advanced:
Complete 2-3 rounds, holding 60 seconds on each position.

#1. Full Plank with Leg Raises

  • Alternate between legs: hold one leg up for 15 seconds at a time, and switch.

Full Plank with one leg up

#2. Side Plank: Right Side and Left Side

  • Choose one of the three variations below.
  • Actively push your hips upwards.

Side PlankSide Plank with Straight ArmSide Plank with Leg and Arm Up

#3. Walking Planks (forearm to straight arm)

  • Start in a forearm plank position, then press up with one hand, followed by the other one.
  • Keep moving all the time.
  • Half way through, change the leading arm.

Forearm Plank Forearm Plank

#4. Reverse Plank with Leg Raises

  • Alternate between legs: hold one leg up for 15 seconds at a time, and switch.
  • Actively push your hips upwards.

Reverse Plank

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