“How to Strengthen your Core” is a phrase that’s graced countless magazine covers and launched a thousand blogs. So what does “core” really mean? And why is it so important?
While the core has many definitions, I like to look at it as the critical area that connects the upper and lower body together. A strong, balanced core means all your body parts will communicate better with each other, which leads to improved overall function and fewer injuries.
When it comes to the core, it’s important to take a holistic approach. It’s all too common for people to just focus on one part, like their “six pack” abs. This results in overtraining one area, throwing the whole core off balance. So let’s take a comprehensive look at the core.
When I say core, I’m referring to the following four main muscle groups: the rectus abs (i.e. the six pack), obliques (side abs), transverse (your ‘corset’ muscles), and your spinal erectors (lower back). Using these major muscle groups, we are able to move our core in three planes: sagittal (forward and backward), frontal (side to side—confusing, I know), and transverse (rotational or twisting).
So in order to train the core effectively, we must choose movements from every category and then hit all four major muscle groups. Below are four great core exercises that do just that.
4 Moves That Strengthen Your Entire Core
Targets: transverse abs
Start from a plank position on your toes and palms with a flat back. Keeping your core strong, bring your right knee to the left side of your chest, and then return to plank position. Repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep. Do 10 to 12.
Place your hands on the floor, elbows directly under your shoulders, and extend your legs behind you. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels. Lift your right foot off the floor and bend your right knee toward the outside of your right elbow, then extend it straight behind you, keeping your foot a few inches off the floor. Pause, then lower your foot to the ground. Switch legs and repeat on the other side. That’s one rep. Do 10 to 12.
Targets: rectus abs
Get into a push-up position with your knees and hips off the ground. Arch your back (imagine a rope attached to your tailbone pulling your butt straight up to the ceiling) as you look at your shoelaces. Then contract your abs and lower your hips back down start. That’s one rep. Do 10 to 12.
Targets: spinal erectors
Lie face down on a flat bench with your palms grasping the front of the bench and your knees about 5 inches off the edge of the bench. Contracting your glutes and lower back muscles, raise your lower body as high as you can, then slowly lower again back to start. That’s one rep. Do 10 to 12.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.