Building a Stronger Core
You may not realize it, but a strong core doesn’t just help you sport the summer bikini or make you fit great into those new jeans—it also helps you perform routine tasks. You use your core every day while at home, at work, in the gym, or playing sports. A functionally strong core isn’t just about having ripped abdominal muscles—it increases your balance and posture, reduces the risk of injury, and can increase raw power and strength by serving as a strong base. Within this article we share with you some common misconceptions, benefits and exercises to help you improve your core strength.
Misconceptions. Many fitness-minded individuals fall into the common misconception of focusing on their abdominal muscles to strengthen their core. Research suggests that the best exercises for abs don’t actually focus entirely on those flashy stomach muscles, but rather working the entire core. When you perform hundreds of ab busting exercises like crunches, you are utterly discounting other more critical exercises that are more efficient in helping tone and sculpt the abdominal area. By focusing more on alternative core-stabilization exercises—which we discuss later—the abs and trunk will strengthen, tone and build underlying abdominal muscles providing for stronger abs.
Benefits. Like your mother always said, “Sit up straight, put your shoulders back and head up.” Proper poster has a direct correlation of a strong core. Developing strong core muscles prevents you from slouching, which creates less friction on your spine providing for less wear and tear, and proper breathing. The unequivocal benefit of having a strong core is for its functional strength benefits that we utilize every day for essential activities like standing, walking and other daily living activities.
More and more common, individuals are being treated for chronic lower-back pain. In fact, according to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time, and it is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. If core muscles are weak and unbalanced, the back loses its correct lumbar curve and health posture. Research confirms that by maintaining a healthy diet, staying active, and developing a strong core with proper posture considerably reduces the risk of back pain.
Whether you are a golfer, tennis player, swimmer, runner, cyclist or any other fitness enthusiasts, all of your powerful movements originate from the center of your body. The stabilization of the spine from the pelvis to the neck, and the shoulders that allow for the transfer of power to the arms and legs all generate from strong core muscles. With more strengthened core muscles, the muscles in the extremities can contract and fire more powerfully on command.
Exercises. When it comes to core exercises as we mentioned earlier, too much focus is placed on the abdominal muscles and not enough on the back, pelvic and diaphragm muscles which are essential for strength and stability. There are several stabilization exercises that can be used to strengthen the core and here are some of our favorites: plank variations, bicycle crunches, hanging straight leg extensions, stability ball variations, BOSU ball mountain climbers, TRX fallouts, and landmine rotations, to name a few.
Additionally, two popular practices that highlight functional core movement are Pilates and yoga. Pilates is a mind/body discipline that increases flexibility and strengthens the legs, back, hips and abdominals—the entire core. This practice accentuates proper spinal alignment, improves balance, and proper breathing techniques to allow oxygen to flow into core contracted muscles. Yoga is another mind/body practice that uses asanas (or poses) to enhance your posture and core strength. There are many different variations of yoga, but the principle physical benefits are the same which focus on stretching the muscles, increasing the range of motion of various joints, and promoting flexibility and fluidity throughout the body. All of these benefits lead to a more solid core. If you’re seeking a flat stomach with visible abs, look no further than SLT and Y7 for sweat-dripping Pilates and yoga workouts, respectively. You will leave the studios with wobbly legs, spaghetti arms, and out of breath for perhaps some of the top core workouts.
Upon the development of your core muscles, you’ll notice the benefits in your daily life that include better posture, improved strength, less back pain, tighter abs, and the ability to drop a clothing size or two. In summary having a strong, flexible core is the powerhouse of your body that can optimize your athleticism and provide for a better overall quality of life. Just don’t forget that if you want to notice a visual difference in your core region, that nutrition is 80% of the equation.