Why And How To Strengthen Your Core

Your core refers to the muscles in the abdomen, lower back, and pelvis that lie roughly between the rib cage and the hips. By strengthening and coordinating these muscles you will not only tone your abs, but don’t be surprised if you also experience the following benefits:

  • Improved balance and stability
  • Reduced back pain
  • Improved posture
  • Better athletic performance
  • Feel better

Strong core muscles make it easier to do most physical activities and can help you reach your fitness goals. Any exercise that involves the use of your abdominal and back muscles in a coordinated fashion counts as a core exercise.

Below are core exercises trainers swear by:

Plank
  • Rest your forearms on the floor, with your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and hands facing forward so that your arms are parallel.
  • Extend your legs out behind you and rest your toes on the floor. Your body should form one straight line from your shoulders to your heels.
  • Squeeze your entire core, your glutes, and your quads, and tuck your butt under a little to keep your lower back straight. Make sure you are not dropping your hips or hiking your butt up high toward the ceiling.
  • Position your head so that your neck is in a neutral position and your gaze is on your hands.
  • Hold this position.
Butterfly Sit-up
  • Lie face up with the soles of your feet together, knees bent out to sides. Reach your arms overhead.
  • Using your core, roll your body up until you are sitting upright. Reach forward to touch your toes.
  • Slowly lower back down to starting position and repeat.
Dead Bug
  • Lie face up with your arms extended toward the ceiling and your knees bent 90 degrees and stacked over your hips.
  • Slowly extend your right leg out straight, while simultaneously dropping your left arm overhead. Keep both a few inches from the ground. Squeeze your butt and keep your core engaged the entire time, lower back pressed into the floor.
  • Bring your arm and leg back to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side, extending your left leg and your right arm.

Half Kneeling Wood Chop

  • Start on your knees, and then step one leg a few feet in front of the other, foot flat on the floor and knee bent at 90 degrees. Hold a light-to-medium dumbbell by the knee that’s on the floor. Grasp onto both ends of the weight.
  • Bring the weight diagonally up toward the ceiling on the opposite side of your body, twisting your abs as you do. Keep your hips facing forward—only your core muscles should be rotating.
  • Bring the weight back down to starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times and then do the other side.
Jackknife
  • Lie face up with your legs extended and arms extended overhead on the floor, keeping them close to your ears. Contract your abs to press your lower back into ground.
  • Point your toes, squeeze your thighs together, squeeze your glutes, and simultaneously lift your legs and upper back off the ground, reaching your hands forward to meet your feet so that your body forms a V.
  • Keep your core engaged as you slowly lower to return to starting position.
Leg Raise
  • Lie face up with your legs extended and hands at your sides or tucked underneath your hips for extra support.
  • Slowly raise your legs, keeping them together and as straight as possible, until the soles of your shoes are facing the ceiling.
  • Then, slowly lower your legs back down. Don’t let your feet touch the floor; instead, keep them hovering a few inches off.
  • As you do this move, make sure to keep your lower back flat on the floor. If you’re having a tough time doing that, don’t lower your legs as far.
Reverse crunch
  • Lie with your back pressed to the ground, your hands at your sides, your knees bent, and your feet off the floor (ankles crossed) so that your knees create a 90-degree angle.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles, and raise your hips toward your rib cage, curling your tailbone off the floor.
  • Hold for a second or two; then slowly lower your hips to the starting position.
  • Work up to 12 to 16 repetitions.

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