Let’s face it, we’re all guilty of wanting to get those famous six-packs. But the truth is we should really be working out the whole core.
The core muscles - those around your belly and your mid and lower back - are what enable your body to move around and perform everyday activities. So a weak core will not only look bad, it can have far-reaching consequences for your health and mobility.
That’s why core strengthening exercises should be an essential part of your training. In fact, according to Harvard Health Publishing, every 10 years after age 30, people can lose 3% to 5% of their muscle mass. Scary right?
If you’re convinced but don’t know where to start, we got you covered! In this article, you’ll learn more about:
- What are core muscles, what they do, and how to strengthen them
- The benefits of core workout
- Wrapping Up
Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
What are core muscles, what do they do, and how can you strengthen them
The first step to a stronger, healthier core is understanding the core muscles. Your core muscles connect your upper and lower body. To that extent, they are involved in any movement that requires lifting, bending, twisting, reaching, and even just sitting or standing still. Let’s take a closer look at each of the core muscles, their function, and how to work them.
The rectus abdominis is one of the main core muscles. Stretching all along the abdomen, it enables you to flex and rotate the trunk. It’s commonly referred to as six-packs due to its shape.
That’s right, everybody has six-packs! They’re just hidden by a thick layer of fat in some cases. So if you’re looking to get defined abs, you should not only do exercises that target the rectus abdominis but also pay attention to your diet (calorie intake vs calories burned). If your goal is getting the coveted V-cut, you may want to look at exercises that specifically target the lower abs.
The transverse abdominis is a deep muscle that extends between the ribs and the pelvis. It helps stabilise the spine and the lower back during movements.
A weak transverse abdominis can lead to lower back pain. To strengthen this muscle, go for exercises that activate the whole core, such as planks or ab holds.
The obliques are located on each side of the abdomen, running diagonally from the ribs to the pelvic. They enable the trunk to flex, bend, rotate sideways, and provide stability to the spine.
Oblique exercises not only improve your mobility, but they’re also great to help get rid of the muffin top, or love handles (the excess fat sitting at the sides of your waist). Remember though that just as it is the case for six-packs, working out the obliques alone won’t be enough; you must reduce your overall body fat to get results.
Lumbar Erector Spinae
The lumbar erector spinae are long muscles along the back that allow the spine to extend, bend, and twist. They run all the way from your hips to the base of your skull.
Your erector spinae becomes weak through overstretching, which happens when you spend long periods sitting down, especially with a bad posture. Weak erector spinae muscles can lead to lower back pain and tension in the neck and shoulders.
You can strengthen your erector spinae muscles with compound exercises (exercises that work multiple muscles at the same time), such as the superman or the bird dog.
Pelvic Floor Muscles
The pelvic floor muscles form the base of the core, extending from your pubic bone in the front to your tailbone in the back. They support your bladder, uterus, and other internal organs.
A strong pelvic floor helps with bladder and bowel control as well as labour and delivery. It also makes sexual activities more enjoyable whether you’re a man or a woman. You can work your pelvic floor muscles by simply contracting and releasing them (known as Kegels) or through core exercises like glute bridges and squats.
The benefits of core workouts
As you can already tell by now, having a strong core leads to many benefits.
Located at the centre of your body, your core muscles act as a pillar that is connected to all your other body parts. A strong core will therefore provide you with balance, stability, and better coordination. This means you’ll find daily activities easier to carry out, and you’ll less likely fall and injure yourself.
Strong core muscles will also improve your posture, reducing the risk of back, hip, knee and even neck pain.
Your core also enables you to transfer force through your body. So the stronger your core, the more efficient and powerful your movements will be. This means having a strong core will increase the effectiveness of your workouts.
Finally, by adding muscle mass to your body, you will boost your metabolism, allowing your body to burn more calories while resting and improving your mood.
By now, we hope you’re convinced that core exercises should have a central role in your training routine. A strong core is not only beneficial in your day-to-day activities but will also improve your sports performance.
And the best part is core exercises can be done anywhere and by anyone, no matter your level of experience. All you need is a good exercise mat, or sometimes no equipment at all. So what are you waiting for?