What are your “core” muscles?
- Abdominals- muscles you typically associate with a “6 pack” are also important in stabilizing your spine.
- Obliques- muscles on the sides of your abdomen helps you rotate your body and stabilizes your spine
- Pelvic Floor- a group of 14 muscles that serve many functions, one being hip stabilization.
- Spine- muscles run along each side of your spine
- Glutes - a group of 3 muscles that help with hip stabilization and provide a lot of strength for walking, standing from a seated position, etc.
- Diaphragm - a large muscle that is associated with breathing
Signs of A Weak Core
- Lower back pain- back isn’t supported properly which causes other parts of your body to over compensate. This is what leads to pain.
- Poor posture - slumped shoulders, not standing up straight, slouching in your chair
- Bad balance- feeling “off centered”
Importance of Core Strength
Because the majority of the muscles listed above are found in the center of your body, strengthening them would naturally help to improve your posture. Having strength in your core muscles helps give you endurance to stand up straight throughout the day.
Doing exercises to strengthen your core helps these muscles work together in a coordinated manner. This helps to improve your balance. Having a strong core also helps to reduce the risk for injuries by having strong accessory muscles that stabilize your body. With improved balance and strong muscles that help stabilize your body, your risk of injuring yourself is reduced.
Strengthening and stabilizing the lower back may help reduce back and hip pain. A major added bonus!
How do you engage your core muscles?
Engaging your core muscles is easier than you might think, but takes a bit of practice and know how. It should feel like you are pulling your belly button into your spine. It is not “sucking in” your stomach by taking in a breath. It is using your stomach muscles to pull or bring your belly button towards your spine. Exhaling while doing this may also help you feel your muscles engage.
For some, laying on their back is helpful. Practice taking a breath in, and upon exhaling, pull the belly button towards the center of your body.
How do you strengthen your core muscles?
Strengthening the core is not just about doing an endless amount of crunches. Incorporating a variety of exercises that engage multiple muscle groups is important in supporting core strength.
Remember, consistency is key. Doing these exercises once is not going to help your core strength. Try to incorporate core strengthening exercises into your weekly fitness routine.Aim for 2-3 times a week for about 5-10 minutes.
This doesn’t need to be an intense session, but focus on a few different areas each time. For example, you may choose to do 3 different exercises. For each exercise, do 15 repetitions and repeat the circuit 3-4 times.
What are some exercises I can do to strengthen my core?
Side crunches - Laying on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees resting to one side. Then gently lift your chest to the sky and control the movement back towards the floor.
Mountain Climbers- Begin in a plank position, and bring one knee towards the chest as you exhale. Return to the starting position and alternate between each side.
Bridges - Begin by laying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Proceed to lift your pelvis to the sky, clenching your bottom at the top slightly before slowly bringing your pelvis back to the ground.
Superman- Begin by laying on your stomach with your arms straight above your head so your body is in one long line. Then lift your right arm and hold for 3 seconds and then gently lower back to the ground. Repeat on the other side. Continue to alternate between each side for 10-15 repetitions. Then do this with your legs.
Check out these exercises from the Mayo Clinic for some images depicting the exercises mentioned above.