Engage your core !
Abs Inside !
Shanti Som Wellbeing Retreat – Monda – Marbella - Spain
Why strengthening our core muscles is so important? And therefore, why core workout should be part of our routine ?
A word of anatomy
First of all, what the core exactly is?
Core muscles are the muscles around your trunk and pelvis.
The more famous major core muscles are the Transverses, the Obliques (internal and external) and the Rectus Abdominis (from the deepest to the superficial ones) as well as the pelvic floor muscles. The minor core muscles include the Latissimus Dorsi and Gluteus Maximus.
We also like to divide them by Upper abs, Lower abs, Obliques (the ones on the side) and the Transverse (one of the deepest abdomen muscle). The deeper muscles support your spine, acting as a natural corset. There are also the ones helping you to get a flatter stomach ; amateur of planks ;) ! Indeed, plank exercises are one of the best exercises to work on this.
So what does the core exercise target ?
Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony.
You would have understood now that there is a difference between “core” and “abdominal” training, as core workout does not just target the front side of the body.
This is why having a strong core leads to many different benefits for your body and health. Let’s see now which ones :
- It improves your balance and stability in general, for any type of physical activities. Whether in your daily life activities (get a glass from the top shelf, bend down to tie your shoes or even sitting or standing up still) or when practicing your favourite sport (swing a golf club, playing tennis…).
- It improves your posture. As mentioned above on the anatomic topic, it will help you to stand up right! Moreover, good posture trims your silhouette, projects confidence and more importantly allows you to breathe deeply and correctly.
- It helps to the good execution of every kind of fitness exercises, and as a consequence, it prevents from lower back pain and other types of injuries. Indeed, if you experience back pain, core exercises would be a nice complement to the treatments we might have prescribed you and would help you very much to have a healthy back again.
For all the reasons above, core exercises can help you reach your fitness goals.
Do not forget neither that your strong core would help you with continence - the ability to voluntarily control urinary and faecal discharge - and with pregnancy, girls, "if you experience it" So I think we would all agree with the importance of the core now that we know all this ;)
And what about core muscle definition ?
Well, in order to have more-defined abdominal muscles… the deal is more in what you put on your plate! Nutrition is the key point here, although core exercises, of course, helps toning your abs.
Two other points are important in the process of getting defined abdominal muscles, as it helps to burn fat and build muscles and a strong and fast metabolism: cardio activities such as running, swimming, biking is important and resistance training (a subject we will touch later on this year in another BLOG). Core exercises would be a bonus to increase the strength but also the volume of the muscles by doing abdominal exercises like crunches with weights for example.
And in the practice ?
You can practice at home!
No more excuses! ;) More exercises don't necessarily require specialized equipment or a gym membership.
To improve core strength you could introduce instability into your workouts or practice… Pilates !
The king practice for a strong core : PILATES
Pilates engages different groups of muscles that need to work together. It is not just about working a specific muscle (as other isolating exercises would do, like free weight training for instance).
Here one example of a classic core exercise: The bridge position. Lie on your back with your knees bent at first. Then, it involves to tighten your abdominal muscles (as well as gluts and hamstrings) by raising your hips off the floor to reach a perfect alignment with hips, knees and feet.
Other type of Core workout
In fact, as we said it many times already (I think you got it now!), any exercise that involves the use of your abdominal and back counts as a core exercise.
- It can be exercises focused especially on the core to stabilize and strengthen it such as planks, sit-ups and crunches...
- As mentioned above, it can also be exercises introducing instability.
Free weights used in a manner that you are maintaining a stable trunk, or even body weight and fitness ball exercises (Pic.1 below), can train and strengthen your core muscles as well as the other groups of muscles recruited for the exercise. For example, instead of doing normal squat and lunges you can execute them by using a TRX (Pic.2 below), or a Bosu (Pic.3 below)…
Despite they are often neglected, core exercises are an important part of a well-rounded fitness program. Therefore, by reading this article, we hope that you will find some easy ways to add more of it to your workout routine :)