Core Strength Training: The Ultimate Workout for a Stronger, Leaner Body!
11 February 2015
Did you know that your core is where all movement in your body originates? Core exercises are an important part of overall fitness training that, except for the occasional sit-up or crunch, are often neglected. Core strength is far more than just a few crunches at the gym. The difference between core and abdominal training is that you are not just targeting the front side of the body but the back side as well. Basic ab workouts only target the surface abdominals, while proper form core training works the deepest layers of muscle (these are the muscles we want to be targeting for beach-ready abs) embedded within and surrounding the torso. A movement that works the core activates numerous muscle groups, strips away abdominal fat, tones, and produces noticeable results a lot faster.
What Muscle Groups Make up My Core?
I know how a core anatomy lesson is not really the most exciting of topics, and not necessarily something that most of you may be interested in; however, if you have read and understood my wellness philosophy, you will see how important it is to apply mindfulness in everything that we do - and this includes mindfulness when we train. Being mindful while exercising means being completely aware of how our body feels when it is moving in a certain way, which muscles are activated, which are relaxed, how the breath feels and the level of discomfort or ease a particular movement brings. Deep awareness enables us to better familiarise ourselves with our bodies, The more we know about the muscles in our body and how they work together, the better aware we are able to be when practicing various types of exercises, and the better our bodies perform.
The Core is composed of numerous muscle groups. These include:
Transverse Abdominis (these are the innermost of the flat muscles of the abdomen)
The Pelvic Floor
Rectus Abdominis: abs and lower abdominals – the only muscles in the core that are active when doing crunches
Erector Spinae: the muscles and tendons running down your spine into the side of your vertebral column
External and internal Obliques
Multifidus: consists of a number of fleshy and tendinous fibers, which fill up the groove on either side of the vertebrae, from the sacrum to the axis
HipsThese core muscles are connected to your legs, to the way you stand, squat, and sit.
Core training does three really important things:
It makes for a leaner appearance
Supports your spine
Assists with balance and stabilisation
Core strength training helps ensure that your torso remains steady while you move. The core muscles stabilize your trunk and keep it from wavering when you move your arms and legs. When all of these muscles are functioning properly, they also reduce the strain on your back and legs.
A strong core gives you:
Increased protection and "bracing" for your back
A more stable centre of gravity
A more stable platform for sports movements
When you have good core stability, the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen work in harmony. They provide support to your spine for every activity. A weak core can make you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries. Strong core muscles provide the brace of support needed to help prevent such pain and injury.
Mindful control is key when it comes to core strength training. This means performing each exercise slowly while focusing on specific, controlled motion and inhaling and exhaling throughout each exercise to regulate breathing. In so doing, your muscles can receive the oxygen they need for growth and development.
One method I like to use to determine if my core is correctly engaged is by talking while I exercise. If you can talk, then your form is correct because your diaphragm is properly activated. The more regularly you work your core, the leaner your body will appear, the better your posture will become, and the stronger your performance will turn out to be in all areas of your workout and other physical activities.
How Can I make sure that I am Applying Proper Form?
Focus on quality of movement rather than quantity: Allow for a gradual build up to a greater number of repetitions. When starting out, take it slow and learn how to properly perform each exercise with optimal technique.
Breathe steadily and slowly: Breathe freely while doing each of the exercises in your core strengthening workout. Your instinct may be to hold your breath during an exercise, however taking deep inhales and exhales promotes stamina and works the core even deeper.
Take a break when you need one: When your muscles get tired, stop and change exercises. And, if you work your core muscles to fatigue during an exercise session, wait at least a day between workouts to allow the muscles to recover.
What about Crunches?
Crunches are really important, because before you can engage your deeper core, you need that strength in your abdominal muscles. You have to build that strength, and doing crunches is a great way to build up towards getting a stronger core. Introducing exercise balls, foam roller and Bosu trainer balls into your ab workout is a great way to engage the deeper core muscles. These balance initiators require the core for stabilisation which strengthens the abs and surrounding core muscles.
How can I Strengthen my Core?
Hundreds of exercises can challenge your core muscles. Even while reading this article, you can strengthen your core by pulling your navel to your spine, holding that position for 30 seconds and then repeating the exercise at least nine times.
Opt for exercises that work your core muscles simultaneously. Rather than isolate each muscle group in your trunk, the best exercises for your core are those that get muscles working together at the same time. Core strengthening requires the regular and proper exercise of your body's 29 core muscles.
Some of my favourite basic exercises and classes to enhance core fitness include:
- Activated abdominal crunches or sit-ups on exercise/Bosu balls, foam blocks or foam rollers
- Plank variations
Go on, give them a try....Trust me you will see amazing results!
Yours in Health Always,