It’s an analogy of sorts. Just as in the colder months we move closer to the “hearth,” the center of our homes, gathered around the fireplace or in the kitchen where it’s warm, the time is also good to invest some exercise energy into the center of our bodies – the core.
The core actually is at the center of us – it encompasses the abs, hips, back and chest. It stabilizes the body, allowing movement in any direction as well as having proper balance. It is key in helping to prevent falls and supporting our body. Having a strong core is beneficial, because it allows the body to function properly, thereby encouraging a more active, involved life at any age or stage. And a good strong core is the foundation for all activities that involve arm and leg movement in any way.
What is the “Core” Exactly?
In general, the core is all of the muscles of the midsection – front, sides, and back – and many deeper muscles that can’t be seen from the outside. Some more commonly known of the core muscles are the rectus abdominis (the proverbial six-pack) the internal and external obliques, the transverse abdominis, and the erector spinae. They completely surround and support your spine and pelvis and connect your upper body and lower body, effectively transferring forces from one to another.
All of these muscles work together to supply strength and coordinated movement. They work in unison, so it’s best to train them as a group, rather than to try to isolate them individually. They work better as they learn more together.
Together, they play a huge role in everyday activities, from getting out of bed, to walking down the street, and bending over to pick up something. Perhaps most importantly, they help us to stay upright.
Why Do Core Training?
Here are Five Important Benefits:
– Core training improves functional fitness. Everyday tasks such as walking, bending, lifting, and squatting get easier. The muscles of your pelvis, lower back, hips, and abdomen working together support your body, providing it with better balance and stability When your body is well supported you will be far less susceptible to injuries, keeping your body aligned, and minimizing strain on muscles and joints.
– Core training reduces the risk for low back pain. If the core is not strengthened, then other structures of your back will have to work harder to support your body Weak core muscles are a leading cause of low back pain. Strong core muscles help you maintain correct posture and reduce strain on your spine.
– Core training reduces the risk for various health problems. Common ones include neck pain, torn muscles, ruptured disks, strained ligaments and incontinence.
– Core training improves athletic performance at any level. All powerful movements originate from the core of the body outward. A stronger core will enable you to generate more powerful and rapid arm and leg movements.
– Core training helps you look better, move better, feel better. Your body will be more tight and trim, enhancing your self-esteem and confidence as you gain more strength and fitness.
How Do We Build Core Strength and Stability?
There are hundreds of exercises recommended for strengthening the core. Following are 5 starters
– Supine Drawing-in. Lie on your back with knees bent. Place your hands on your belly, with thumbs near the belly button, fingers spread. Keeping your pelvis still, draw the belly button toward the spine. You should feel some tension develop under your hands. Repeat 10 times for 1-2 sets often. This exercise teaches your abdominals to activate.
– Abdominal Crunch. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head so that your elbows point away from your body. Slowly curl your torso so that your shoulder blades come up off the floor, then slowly return to the start position. Repeat 10 times for 1-2 sets often.
– Back Extension. Lie on your stomach on the floor. Place your hands behind your head so that your elbows are out to the side. Keeping your toes and legs in contact with the floor slowly arch your back so your chest lifts up off the floor. Slowly return to start position. Repeat 10 times for 1-2 sets often.
– Forearm Plank. Lie facedown with legs extended and elbows bent and directly under your shoulders. Palms are fat on the floor. Place your feet hip-width apart, and elbows shoulder-width apart. Tighten your abs, then tuck your toes to lift your body (forearms remain on the ground; press the floor away from you with your forearms. You should form a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Hold for 30- 60 seconds for 1-3 sets often.
– Dead Bug. Lie on our back with your arms extended straight up towards the ceiling, and your legs raised with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Lower your right arm and left leg at the same time until they are straight and hovering just above the floor. Return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side. Repeat 5 times on each side for 1-2 sets often.
Diet and regular exercise go hand in hand to form the pave the way towards optimum health. A good regular exercise program is dependent on regular strengthening and maintaining of the body’s core, its center. Now is the time, when it’s less easy to exercise outside, to give it some special attention