Our core is responsible for our functional strength, and stabilising our muscles to help prevent injury. This is particularly important for our lower back, which regularly comes under stress through heavy lifting, and everyday life. Without a strong core, areas like the lower back will be more susceptible to injury.
So, What is your core?
Learning the best was to strengthen our core, comes from understanding how it actually works. People often get confused with the difference between our abs (Rectus abdominal muscles), and our core.
Here’s the difference:
Abdominal muscles are only on the front of the body, lined across the stomach. This offers strength and stability for the front of the body.
The core on the other hand, expands beyond our rectus abdominal muscles. Core muscles include abs, but also include muscles surrounding the mid-section allowing for increased stability and strength.
The benefits of strengthening your core:
Injury prevention – As previously mentioned, a strong core offers additional strength and stability. Especially for areas such as the lower back, which helps to prevent injury.
Increased stability – Increased stability of the core can help improve your balance, control, and range of motion when performing exercises.
Improved posture – By stabilising the spine, and tightening surrounding muscles, a strong core helps to improve posture.
Exercises to help develop a strong core
Many exercises that target your abdominal muscles will also have a positive effect on your core. However a handful of exercises are more effective at training your core, check it out:
- The plank – The plank is a isometric exercise (Static exercise) which engages the entire core, making it a very popular and effective core workout. The difficulty of the plank can be varied through different variations of the exercise (Eg: Side plank).
- Russian twists – Russian twists are performed by elevating the legs, and sitting in a ‘V’ position. From here you rotate your core from left to right, touching the floor either side of where you’re sitting. This movement works the core in a different way from the plank, and it’s difficulty can be increased via the introduction of a medicine ball.
- Superman – This exercise puts particular emphasis on the lower back, and surrounding core muscles. This is good, as this area is often neglected. The exercise is done by lying on your stomach, and peeling both your arms and legs off the surface towards the ceiling at the same time.
- Bird Dog – This exercise is often used in Yoga and Pilates routines, and is particularly good at engaging and strengthening your core. This exercise is performed by resting on your hands and knees, kicking back one leg and simultaneously raising the opposite arm. Then repeat with the other leg, and the other arm.
Another great way to help further develop your core strength is to perform heavy compound lifts. Such as Deadlifts, and squats. These compound movements engage the core throughout the entire exercise, and are excellent for increasing functional and core strength.
In conclusion it is important to ensure that you’re training your core in addition to your abdominal muscles. Building a strong core will allow you to have increased balance, improved functional strength, and improved stability. Not to mention that you will be significantly less susceptible to injury when lifting. Particularly during compound lifts, and particularly preventing injuries to your lower back.