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What is Core Strength? Exercises to Strengthen Your Core

A girl doing core strength training while lying on yoga mat

We all have heard the word core so often from gym trainers, athletes, or exercise enthusiasts. And most of the time, our mind immediately plays an image of finely sculpted six or eight packs upon hearing this buzzword.

However, the core does not necessarily represent your abs. It is actually the collection of all the muscles that make up your torso. And when we talk about core strength, it means the ability to stand upright in the appropriate posture without losing your balance. When it comes to exercise, core strength represents your ability to perform all dynamic movements efficiently.

So technically, your core covers every part of your body except your limbs. It means your hips, glutes, abdominals, obliques, lower back muscles; everything comes under core muscles.

Why is core strength important?

In the era of Britney Spears and bikinis, it is not surprising to hear clients come in with their obsession of getting a six-pack and a flat stomach. While it is true that people with amazing abs do have a strong core, your core strength is not only about that. It has so much more to offer in terms of strength and balance which is why it is essential to have a strong core. Below are some of the reasons that make core strength important in an individual’s life.

  • Ensures Balanced Movement

We might not give much attention to our core muscles while walking, but they play a huge role in our balanced walk and movement.. Sagittal, frontal, and horizontal planes are involved when we engage in any type of movement. If these muscles are not working fine, our other muscles compensate for that. This eventually leads to a weak core and, ultimately, injuries.

The compensating muscles in such a case are usually the lower back ones. If the lower back is compromised, it can further create problems in your daily life. You won’t be able to perform your daily chores nor will you be sitting comfortably. Your sleep would get affected because of the constant lower back pain and whatnot. This almost becomes a vicious cycle of medical conditions, and you can end up in a heap of complexities.   

And if all these issues are not enough, there is even more bad news. “While back injuries are very common with a weak core, you can also injure other parts of your body as a result, like your shoulders, hips, and knees,” says McHale, a regional clinical director at Professional Physical Therapy.

  • Your Ultimate Support System

Ever wonder how you can sit up straight without falling victim to gravitational pull? It is your core that makes it possible. Your core is every muscle in your torso, from the deepest abdominal muscles to pelvic floor muscles. Your back muscles and diaphragm are also included.

Having such vast coverage, your core supports and stabilizes your spine so you can have an erect posture. It serves as a stable base for all other peripheral body parts. If this stability gets affected, it can lead to problems in all the other parts of your body, such as legs and arms.

  • Helps In Other Exercises

Since your core is involved in pretty much every type of movement, it is obvious that it will be involved in exercises that do not primarily focus on your torso area. If you are working on your arms or legs muscles and doing squats or planks, you will need a strong core to perform these workouts effectively.

So paradoxically, you are not targeting your core muscles here, yet they are also getting worked. This is important because if your core muscles are not feeling the impact, you may kiss goodbye to your aim of getting toned arms or legs.  

  • Cool Abs and Packs

And, of course, you build strong abs even if this is not your end goal. Suppose you are working on building core strength for enhancing your overall stability. In that case, finely shaped abs will come as a plus because these muscles will obviously be receiving the impact of the exercises.

What problems can a weak core cause?

Since we have seen the significance of core muscles above, it is only natural to believe that if a core is weakened, it can cause many other problems as well. Some of them, we will see below.

Bad Back Pain

How many times have we given attention to core strength whenever we have faced back pain? Probably close to zero. Although we immediately attribute it to our posture issues, we do not dig for the real cause. Since the posture issues also often arise due to weak core, the core acts as the origin of such back pain.

As we saw above, core muscles are responsible for smooth and stable movement; if these muscles do not perform their function well, the spine takes all the stress upon itself and experiences overwork. This causes muscular strain, which manifests itself as severe pain in your back.

Compromised Balance

The core muscles are also important for keeping a good balance. So if your muscles are weak, you can have difficulty in maintaining a proper balance while walking, standing, or even bending.

Breathing issues

The diaphragm that protects your lungs is surrounded by core muscles. If your core muscles do not perform their function well, it can impact your diaphragm and consequently cause breathing problems.

Incorrect Posture

A weak core can also cause bad posture as one of the main functions of your core is to ensure you have a correct and upright posture while sitting, standing, or even walking.

What is core stability?

The main function of a core is to protect the spine from stress and to strain and balance the force from the lower body to the upper body. Core stability ensures extreme movements without any exertion on your spine and lower back area. It is the ability of your abdominal muscles to endure forces of dynamic movement and transfer it evenly to appropriate body parts.

As the core is the largest muscle group that is involved in almost all the movements, any type of exercise can put little to maximum impact on it. But, if you talk about proper core strengthening from running only, then this is not the case.

Running on uneven surfaces can engage your core muscles to a good extent, but they won’t give results similar to specific core strength training. Moreover, running won’t work your core enough to give you the proper form for running itself.

Exercises to Strengthen Your Core

These exercises are listed below in order of their difficulty level. For more detailed information on how to do these exercises, you can watch the video by AskDoctorJo.

Pelvic Tilt

A girl doing pelvic tilt while lying on a yoga mat

Start off with the pelvic tilt. In this exercise, you flatten out your back onto the floor, as shown in the video. The pelvis is tilted so that the arch in your back is flattened down. Move your pelvis like you are about to lift up your bottom, but you don’t actually go all the way up.

Hold the tilted pelvis for a few seconds and then relax. This contracts all your core muscles pretty immensely. This exercise is mainly for getting your muscles activated for other workouts.

Full Bridge

A girl doing a core workout while lying on a exercise mat

Smoothly transition from titled pelvic to full bridge by lifting your bottom up. All you have to do is lift your body up without arching your back and bring it down in segments. Start off with ten reps, but you can go up to 15 to 20 reps once it becomes easy for you.

One-legged Bridges

A man doing one-legged bridge on the floor

From full-bridge, go into one-legged bridges. In this exercise, you simply have to go into a full bridge pose with one leg up at a time.

Prayer Plank Swiss Ball

A girl doing prayer plank on a swiss ball in gym

Swiss ball can be used for tons of core exercises. Watch the video above to see how the trainer does prayer planks with a little modification of her own.

Trunk Rotation

A Girl doing trunk rotation while lying on a yoga mat

This one is also done with the help of a swiss ball. All you have to do is lie down flat on the floor with your legs on the ball. Your knees have to be bent and your back has to be flat on the floor. Once you are comfortable, rotate your hips from side to side.

Elbow to knee

A girl ding elbow to knee exercise

Stand in an upright position, put your hands either behind your back or just hold up in the air. Then bring your one knee and one arm together in the middle. You can either bring the same sides together or you can go with alternate ones. You have to make sure that you don’t hunch over and bend your back while crunching.

About author

Articles

Daniel Abraham is a content writer who specializes in writing about fitness and health. He only started his journey to physical fitness just over two years ago, but has quickly developed an impressive knowledge of the subject.
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