We often hear that we need a strong core when we exercise but do you know why? According to Mayo Clinic, it completes a well-rounded fitness program yet people often forget to give their core attention.Where is the core anyway? People think that the core refers only to your abdominal muscles. Healthline says that it also consists of back muscles around the trunk and the pelvis. These include the erector spinae or the back muscles extending up to your trunk that helps you stand upright after you bent over; the rectus abdominis or referred to as the “six-pack” muscle; the obliques which will help in rotating and bending the trunk; the transverse abdominis, the front, and side of your trunk, that is responsible for the stability of the pelvis; and the multifidus that supports the spine. The pelvic floor, diaphragm, glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, and hip abductors are all part of your core muscles.Giving time for core exercises will help improve balance and stability, training the muscles in the pelvis, hips, abdomen, and lower back areas. You need to have stable core muscles if you want to excel in sports and physical activities. When your core muscles are weak, you will get exhausted more quickly, which may lead to body injuries, cause bad posture, and increase lower back pain. When you dedicate some time to core exercises, your abs will be more defined and toned, something that most fitness enthusiasts work hard for. You want your fitness program to be well-rounded, according to Mayo Clinic, so that you will reach all of your fitness goals.What’s great about core exercises is that you don’t need to enroll at the gym or buy certain equipment to strengthen them. What counts as a core exercise? Mayo Clinic says it’s when you use your abdominal and back muscles in a coordinated fashion. Popular examples of core exercises are sit-ups, planks, and exercises that involve a fitness ball.You have to start as a beginner when you have stopped exercising for a long period or you’re just new to fitness. You may hire a personal trainer so that they could give you a program and guide you along the way in getting the proper form, etc.When doing beginner exercises, you would notice that you’ll often hear coaches and trainers saying to tighten your core. First, you have to inhale and then imagine that the belly button is nearing your spine. Hold them tight and you would feel that you have engaged your stomach muscles. Yes, you are already tightening your core! Here are some beginner core exercises you may want to try.
Bridge - This exercise is for glute activation. You will lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the floor, spaced apart at hip-width. Your hands should be at your side with your palms down. Raise your hips and feel your glutes and core tightening. Hold the position for at least 10 seconds before lowering your hips and doing another rep.
Crunch - This exercise is for your abdominal muscles or abs. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet spaced apart at hip-width. Your spine and head should be lined up before you lift your upper back with your chin tucked in. The back should not go up and your arms and hands should be across your chest. Pause for a while before returning to the position you started with. Do as many reps as you can. Remember to proceed with caution if you have low back pain. If your situation is chronic, discuss with a trainer or health professional first on how you could properly do crunches without getting injured.
Supine toe-tap - If you’re into pilates, you have probably done this one too many times. In this simple exercise, you would already be engaging your core, glutes, hips, and legs. Again, lay on your back and bend your knees to 90 degrees. Put your hands on both sides with the palms down. With your core tightened and back flat, lift both of your legs then slowly lower each foot and tap the floor. After you’ve tapped each leg, return it to the starting position. This exercise is more back-friendly than crunches.
Bird Dog - Do this exercise to give your body a little challenge on coordination, stability, and balance. It will engage your abs and your back, basically targeting the core. Your starting position is all fours with your hands below your shoulders and knees below the hips. With the core tightened, lift one leg and align it with your hips while you extend your arm on the opposite side to shoulder level with your palm down. Do not arch your back while you hold the post before returning to the starting position and doing it in your other leg.
When you do this more often, your core gets stronger and is able to do harder moves. Below are some exercises that might be hard for beginners.
Plank - It might look like it’s easy to do but a plank is hard to hold if your core is not strong. It’s a full-body exercise that will surely strengthen the core the more you do it and the longer you could hold it. It will strengthen the shoulder, back, glutes, legs, and arms. With your hands up to your elbows on the floor, straighten your legs and keep the feet at hip-width distance. Hold the position as long as you can. Make sure that your back is straight as well as your legs.
Bird dog with an elbow to knee - Take your bird dog to the next level by doing the exact same position as mentioned above then bringing one side of your knee to meet the elbow from the opposite side. Return to where you started and do it on the other side.
When you’re more advanced, you could do the same exercises but with a twist. Instead of doing a plank, you graduate to a mountain climber wherein you have to lift your knees toward your chest one by one. You could also do side planks with the rotation that targets your obliques. Then, of course, you may challenge yourself more by adding weights to your exercise routine. If you’ve been into fitness for a while, it’s a good investment to have your own weights at home. You may keep it in your garage in racks that will organize it for you. Of course, there should be ample floor space in your garage which you could achieve by installing smart storage solutions such as overhead storage racks and wall shelves from FlexiMounts.