Everyone has heard about the importance of creating a strong core. Almost every single movement one performs throughout the day involves your core muscles, from getting out of bed in the morning to bending over and picking things up. But most importantly, your core muscles help you stay upright because they are the base of support of your entire body. Your core is what helps stabilize great posture, decrease lower back pain, and reduce the chance injury. Creating a strong core is much more than visually seeing a 6-pack or a flat stomach however, it is all about the strength you visually cannot see. Abs are not just an outside layer that we can visually see when an individual is below a certain body fat percentage. There are multiple layers of abdominal muscles, with the deepest most important one being the transverse abdominal muscles. The transverse abdominal muscles stabilize the spine and pelvis. Next are two oblique muscles that control lateral (side to side) and rotational movements, and lastly are the rectus abdominal muscle, which runs vertically in front of your abdomen to help with flexion (forward) movements. This is also the muscle that you can visually see with a 6-pack. Your pelvic floor muscles, back muscles, and diaphragm are also part of your whole core as well.
See there are many muscles that make up your core, so do not feel discouraged if you cannot visually see a 6-pack, because it does not mean you do not have a strong core! A visual 6-pack does not always represent a strong core and a non-visual 6-pack dos not always represent a weak core. It’s all about what is on the inside! So now that you know the different layers of your core muscles, are crunches a gold standard exercise? Check out the Best Exercises for a Strong Core post!
Best Exercises for a Strong Core
There are many different layers to your core muscles and they are all important for different movements. Because of this, there are many different variations of simple exercises that are important to help strengthen your core. When strengthening your core you want to focus on your core muscles, pelvic floor muscles, and low back muscles too! The top exercises to perform include a plank, dead bug, and boat. These exercises can be used for beginners, intermediate and advanced people because there are different variations that can be done. For all of these movements, the most important thing to remember is mind muscle connection. Thinking about the specific muscle you want to activate will allow for greater contraction, which will lead to greater results!
Support your body on your forearms (shoulder width apart) and toes (shoulder width apart) while holding your body in a straight line from your shoulder to your ankles. Focus on squeezing your belly button through your spine to the ceiling. Slow and controlled breathing, breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
DO NOT allow your hips or low back sink or arch!!
Beginner: Support your body on forearms and knees – 3×30 sec each
Intermediate: Support your body on forearms and toes – 3×1 min each
Advanced: Support your body on hands and toes – 4×2 min each
Lie on your back with arms extended straight towards the ceiling and knees bent at 90 degrees. Perform a pelvic tilt (drive your low back to the ground) and squeeze your core. Bring one arm directly behind you while extending the opposite leg down to the ground (do not fully touch the ground with either your arm or leg). Bring your arm and leg back up to the starting and position and perform the same movement with the opposite arm and leg now. Repeat.
Beginner: Perform the exercises as listed above – 3×10 (5 each side)
Intermediate: Perform the exercise normally but add a stability ball in between your arms and legs and do not let the ball fall – 3 x 20 (10 each)
Advanced: Perform exercise on half bosu ball – 3 x 10 (5 each side)
Sit on floor with knees bent. Lean back slightly while keeping your back straight and place your arms out in front of your head. Lift feet off of the ground squeeze your core and hold
Beginner: Perform exercise without lifting feet off the ground – 3 x 10-15 seconds each
Intermediate: Perform exercise as listed above – 3 x 30 seconds
Advanced: Perform exercise as repetitions instead of holding – 3 x 8-10