by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Your core is the center of your body, made up of 12 muscle groups that run from your groin to your shoulders. Because it is the center, or “core,” core exercises are done with your entire body, not just individual parts. You will see strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance by targeting multiple muscle groups at once to improve your core muscles and their roles.
The core is one of the most important areas for developing overall strength along with improving balance and preventing injury. Therefore, it’s important that we fully understand how to strengthen your core muscles as well as the roles they play in our everyday lives.
This article will help explain some of the most common types of core strength exercises, including push-ups and planks, as well as explain why these types are considered core exercises instead of training specific core muscles.
Why Is Training Your Core Muscles Important?
Core training isn’t just for athletes — it’s important for everyone. Here are five reasons why you should include core exercises in your workouts:
Maintain good posture
Strong core muscles help you maintain good posture, which reduces stress on your spine. Over time, poor posture can lead to chronic pain and muscle tightness in the upper back and neck.
Reduce back pain
Weak abdominal muscles put pressure on the spine and can lead to back pain or even hernias. Strengthening the core muscles helps reduce this pressure on your lower back.
Increase flexibility in your hips and shoulders
With strong core muscles, you’ll have a better range of motion in your arms as well as greater flexibility in your hips and shoulders. This is important because it makes it easier to do daily activities like lifting groceries or picking up children without getting injured or straining yourself unnecessarily.
Core exercises can help tone your abs
The abdominals are one of the most visible parts of your core and often the first place people notice when they are toned. So, it’s no surprise that many people want to know how to get some rock-hard six-pack abs!
Having stronger core muscles means that you have better control over them when moving around or lifting things which can help prevent falls or slips. In addition, having a good balance will make it easier for you to perform everyday tasks such as lifting children or carrying shopping bags without getting tired quickly (and we all know that it’s a game of trying to carry all the shopping bags in one trip which requires strength and stability built from a strong core).
Exercises That Will Strengthen Your Core Muscles
Here are some exercises that will help you strengthen your core:
This exercise is one of the best ways to strengthen your core muscles, including all of the muscles mentioned above.
- Lie face down on the floor with your forearms on the ground in front of you and place your hands directly under your shoulders.
- Lift your torso up so that only your forearms, palms, and toes are touching the floor.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds (or as long as possible) without letting your lower back sag or rotate.
2. Side Plank
This is a great exercise to strengthen your core muscles.
- Lie on your side with your legs straight, and your arms extended overhead.
- Lift both feet off the ground and try to keep them in line with your shoulders throughout the exercise.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds, then return to the starting position.
3. The Bird Dog
The bird dog is one of the best exercises you can do to strengthen your core muscles. It’s also a great exercise to help you improve balance and coordination.
- The bird dog is performed by lying face down on the floor with your arms extended above your head.
- You then lift your legs up, bending at the knees and hips so that they form a 45-degree angle with your upper body.
- Your glutes should remain tight throughout the movement while your back remains flat and steady.
- To make it easier, place a hand underneath each knee to stabilize them as you perform the exercise.
4. Hip Bridge
The hip bridge is a great exercise to strengthen your core muscles. It can be done both on the floor and in a chair.
- Lie down on the floor, bend your knees, and place your heels on the ground.
- Pull your shoulder blades down and together, squeeze your glutes and lift your hips off the ground.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, and then relax.
- Repeat 10 times.
5. Dead Bug
The dead bug is an excellent way to build strength in your core. It targets both deep and superficial abdominals as well as hip flexors.
- Lie on your back with knees bent at 90-degree angles and heels about 12 inches from your butt.
- Press your heels into the floor and raise your arms straight up toward the ceiling with your palms facing down.
- Exhale as you slowly lower your arms toward your head until your elbows reach shoulder level.
- Inhale as you extend your arms straight out to the sides at shoulder height without touching the floor.
- Repeat 10 times.