Everyone always talks about wanting a 6 pack or the perfect looking stomach, but why does nobody worry about the STRENGTH of their core? There are several reasons to focus on strengthening your core. Researchers have proven that core strength helps with posture, balance, stability, back pain as well as everyday activities like bending over and rotating to grab an object. Today i am going to break down the 7 best exercises to strengthen your core and build those beloved abdominals.
1. Elevated Plank on Stability Ball
This is an advanced move that should only be done after mastering the plank on the floor. This is a great exercise as it creates an unstable base and therefore allowing other muscles (not just the core) to fire and help stabilize.
>>>To perform: start on your knees and place elbows on the stability ball. When you are ready, slowly lift your knees and plant your feet. Make sure your back is flat, shoulders are locked in, elbows are below the shoulders and core is tight. The worst thing you can do during this move is letting the back sag and arch, make sure it is flat and engaged. When this is mastered, you can then add movements like rolling the ball forward and backwards with the elbows, driving the knees forward toward the ball one at a time, moving the ball in circles with the elbows, and so much more!
2. Side Plank
This is another great isometric exercise for the core, this one focusing on the obliques. Studies have shown that the side plank, when compared to standing abdominal exercises, had much more muscle activity/recruitment of the obliques and rectus rectus abdominis.
>>>To perform: start lying on your side with legs straight and elbow bent and placed under the shoulder. Situate your feet so that you can comfortably put weight on the without moving or sliding. Lift up the hips and tighten the obliques, locking in your shoulder and raising the opposite arm straight to the ceiling. If this is too difficult, bend the knees and extend from there rather than the feet. You want to remember to engage the core as well as the glutes, try not to learn forward or backwards but stay in a straight line.
3. Yoga Half Boat Pose
More isometrics, do you get the hint now? Although all types of exercises are needed to fully engage and strengthen the core, isometric holds are very high up on the list of importance. Not only do they recruit several muscle groups to hold stabile positions; they also allow us to work on straight line holding which helps with posture.
>>>To perform: start in a seated position (ideally on a mat or pad otherwise it’s going to be rough on your tailbone) with your knees bent and fee on the floor. Straighten your arms out in front of you on either side of your legs. Then, lean back until you feel your abdominal muscles kick-in. Hold that position with a flat back, chest up and belly button pulled in. If this is too easy, lift up your feet to balance on your bottom. You can also remove the bend in your legs to increase difficulty as well. This is going to take a lot of balance and stability to hold rather than rolling backwards onto your back or wiggling and putting the feet down.
This is a very complex movement. Not because it is difficult for the core, but because it also takes some thinking and hand-eye coordination. It is great for focusing on how to “pull the belly button in” as well as keeping it there while the body is moving.
>>>To perform: Begin on your back with your arms straight towards the ceiling and your legs in the table top position. Press your lower back into the floor (this is pulling the belly button in) and lower opposite arm and opposite leg towards the floor, without touching, and then return to the starting position. Then extend the other arm and leg and return to start. This means belly button is pulled in as right arm and left leg extend straight towards floor and then back up while the left arm and right leg stay in beginning position. This can get tricky as you go on long enough as to which arm goes with which leg. Just concentrate and always think about pressing the low back down to engage the core.
5. Quadruped Bird dog
So many great benefits of adding this stability exercise to your training routine. It can help with spinal and hip alignment, posture control, shoulder stability as well as aiding in overall performance because of the simultaneous upper and lower body movements.
>>>To Perform: Start on all fours (quadruped) with wrists directly under shoulders and knees under hips. Make sure you are stable and core is locked in (belly button to spine). Reach forward with right arm (lifting from the shoulder, straight elbow) and lifting left leg straight up at the same time. Be sure not to kick the let quickly or arch the back. Hold for a second and then return to starting position. The left arm and right leg extend. You want to keep all movements nice and controlled!
Much like all other muscle groups in the body, the only way to achieve the “toned” look is by decreasing body fat (which cannot be done by spot treatment straight to the area). I know it would be much easier to just exercise the specific area over and over again to finally see results, but that is not how the body works. It’s stubborn, and it’s going to work against you in all ways possible until it finally gives up and starts working with you. THAT is why it is a long process, but if you stick with it, it will all pay off in the end. I know we all hope and dream of having a 6 pack and getting there in the easiest way possible…the only way to actually reveal the hard work is decreasing calorie intake (being in a caloric deficit to lose overall body fat) and aerobic exercise.