Building a CORE-ific Core.
What, Why and How
What is your Core?
Core, Abs- It’s all the same right? Not exactly.
Your core actually includes way more muscles than just your abdominals.
Picture a box in your abdominal region, starting at your pelvic floor and reaching all the way up to your diaphragm and including all the muscles (front, back and sides) in between. This is your core. Some of the main muscles it includes are:
Rectus Abdominus: the ones up and down your tummy that help you bend forward or curl up.
Internal and External Obliques: these are along your sides and allow trunk rotation, twisting both left and right and bending to the side
Transverse Abdominus: an internal muscle which wraps around your middle and helps pull your belly button in toward your spine for strength and stability
Erector Spinae: lower back muscles that help you stand up straight from a bent over position or bend backward
Mutifidi: helps maintain stability in your spine
Why is strengthening your Core Important?
Having a strong core helps you improve your balance and stability, this is not only useful when you are building total body strength by preparing your body to withstand the increase the load but it also make daily activities and recreational sports easier. Everything from swinging a golf club or reaching for a glass from the top shelf to bending down to tie your shoe becomes easier with a strong core. Focusing on strengthening these muscles is also important for athletes like runners, since weak core muscles can lead to more fatigue, less endurance and more frequent injuries.
Weak core muscles can also leave you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries.
Good Exercises to Target the Core:
Don’t worry, it’s not just sit-ups! Although an abdominal crunch is clearly an exercise that targets your abs there are so many other ways to build all of these muscles.
Five of my favorites are:
Get into pushup position on the floor. Now bend your elbows 90° and rest your weight on your forearms. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders, hands apart and pushing the weight evenly through your forearms and hands. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold the position for as long as you can. you can also do this with straight arms.
To add difficulty you can create instability by planking on a SUP like the picture above or on a bosu as seen in the picture below.
Hollow Body Hold
Lie down flat on your back and contract the abs, pulling the belly button towards the floor. Your arms and legs should be held straight out from your body with hands and toes pointed. Slowly raise your shoulders and legs off the ground. The arms and head should be raised along with the shoulders. This is an isometric exercise so rather than focusing on movement, the idea is squeeze those muscles tight and hold the position as long as you can. Start with 3 sets of 10 seconds resting in between and then attempt to build your holds 30-60 seconds each.
Start lying flat on your back with your arms extended toward the ceiling in line with your shoulders. Now bend your hips and knees to a 90-degree angle, tightening your abs and pressing your lower back into the floor.Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, slowly extend your left leg straight out and down toward the floor while bringing your right arm overhead. Keep your abs tight and don't let your lower back arch throughout the movement. Slowly return your arm and leg to the starting position and repeat with your opposite arm and leg. Continue alternating legs and arms. For extra fun try this on a Stand Up Paddleboard!
Begin in a high kneeling position with ball in front of you. Clasp hands together and place on top of the ball. Keeping your back long and squeezing your abdominals tight, press hands into the ball and roll it out in front of you until forearms are on the ball and your body is at a 45 degree angle. Use your forearms and your abs to pull back slowly and return to start position.
If you do not have a stability ball available you can do this using an ab roller, placing paper plates or small hand towels on the floor and using them to allow your hands to slide forward and back or increase the intensity by using a TRX.
Adjust the straps to midlength, face away from the anchor point with a handle in each hand and arms out straight in front of you in line with your shoulders. Create tension in the straps by pressing down through the straps and slowly inching your feet back toward the anchor point until you feel your abs start to work. Keeping your core tight and body in a straight plank position extend your arms slowly forward. Your body should lower toward the ground pivoting on your feet but staying in a strong plank position. Return to start position by keeping your body straight and tight and pressing down through your straight arms toward the ground.