For many, a strong core is synonymous with six-pack abs. Yes, toned abs are great, but the health benefits of a strong core are so much better.
Your core is more than just your ab muscles, it’s your body stabiliser and not only facilitates all your movements, but it houses your inner organs and central nervous system. It’s pretty amazing and we really don’t give our core enough credit!
A strong core has many benefits, not only in the gym but in your everyday activities, too. Here are just a few:
- Weak core muscles contribute to slouching. Having a strong core lessens the wear and tear on the spine and allows you to stand straighter, breathe more deeply, and feel more confident.
- Your core stabilises your entire body, allowing you to move in any direction and stand in one spot without losing balance. Having a strong core can lessen your risk of falling and improve your overall balance.
- A strong core can prevent injuries in exercise, as well as in everyday activities. Lifting heavy objects, bending over, twisting the wrong way - these can all result in injury if your core muscles just aren’t strong enough. When it comes to exercise, strong core muscles can help you perform proper technique, protect your body, improve your flexibility, and help you perform exercises for longer (e.g plank).
- Strengthening your core allows your lower back to also get stronger and healthier, which makes you less likely to suffer from back pain. A strong core will also protect your back muscles when you are lifting weights or heavy objects.
So, how do you engage your core?
A common mistake people make when trying to engage their core is sucking their stomach in. Core engagement is about bracing the core, so instead of sucking your stomach in, you need to focus on pulling your navel up and in towards your spine.
Imagine feeling as if you're about to be punched in the gut. That 'brace' feeling resembles the feeling of filling out your diaphragm and tightening your midsection like a brick to prepare for the blow. Your body knows this is the ideal way to protect yourself from that punch. The core naturally engages right before coughing as well.
When you ‘brace’ your abs, they should feel tightened but you should still be able to move and breath as normal.
Practice engaging your core:
- Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
- Press your lower back into the ground so that your tailbone tips up slightly.
- Inhale deeply. Once your belly is full of air, clench your abdominal muscles.
- Use your ab muscles to pull your belly button up and in towards your spine, as if you’re ‘zipping up’ your abs.
- Take a few breaths, relax, and repeat the exercise.
I’ve put together a quick ab workout to help strengthen your core. Let me know if you give it a try!
Sophie’s Ab Workout
Repeat x 2
- Lying Leg Raises x 12 reps
- Plank x 30 seconds/1 minute
- Bicycle Crunches x 12 reps per side
- Oblique Crunches x 10 reps per side
If you're looking for more core-strengthening workouts then check out THE BOD app!