Core strength. Whether you work out or not, you’re likely familiar with the term. And perhaps it conjures up an image in your mind of a lady with super cut abs covered by 0% body fat. But core strength doesn’t always equal a flat tummy. You can still have fat on the outside of your core, and have strong muscles underneath. The only way to show off those strong muscles visually (if you so desire) is to loose body fat, but that’s an entirely different post.
Why is core strength so important?
Think of it this way. Your core is your power house. I bet you’d be surprised how many movements throughout your day involve your core. Sitting and standing, pivoting to turn, reaching across your desk for something, breathing (yes, core muscles are connected to your diaphragm, which assists in breathing). When your core is weak, you might feel a tweak in your lower back when doing any of those things. But with a strong core, pain no more (or at least a lot less).
Your core consists of more than just your abs. It’s also the muscles along the side of your trunk, low back, and butt. These work together to create a strong center that can create dynamic, strong movement for you. Plus, it keeps your center tight and controlled. Your spine and hips are held in place in proper alignment.
How can I strengthen my core?
There are tons of exercises you can do to strengthen your core, but here’s one that’s a bit more challenging because instability is involved.
All you need is an exercise ball. Get in a plank position with your elbows resting on the ball. Make sure your shoulders are positioned vertically above your elbows. Shoulders in line with your elbows (and wrists, if you’re doing a straight arm plank) is usually the proper form for a plank.
Make sure your core is tight. Something that helps me keep my core tight is to squeeze my glutes together, almost like I’m trying to hold a quarter between my butt cheeks. Nice visual, right? Right.
Now, to up the level of difficulty, but really engage your core muscles, slowly move your elbows in a circle. Try to do 10 circles one way, then 10 the other direction. It’s ok to curse gratuitously while doing this. It’s hard. Feel the burn!
You can also slowly roll your elbows forward and away from you, then back towards you, for another variation. Either way, this is an excellent exercise to build up core strength in the deeper layers of muscle. Done on a regular basis you’ll start to notice more dynamic strength in other areas of exercise.
So do your body a favor, and get that core strong!