Better Core, Better Life

March 30, 2011

Core exercises are really important to do! Having core strength and stability is necessary for any activity.
Most of us think that doing core exercises will give us 6-pack abs. And unfortunately this is wrong. But, don’t worry, it's not your fault if you did think that. Most pictures and advertising, glorify abs. Everyone then has an obsession with 6-pack abs...

What exactly is the core?

But there is more to core than 6-pack abs. So what is the core anyway? You actually have two cores: an inner and an outer core.  

Your outer core is what everyone thinks of, the “six-pack” abs, obliques (“side abs”), and your low back muscles.
Your inner core is all the muscles that surround the spine itself.
In order to properly develop the outer core, you must develop the inner core. Developing the inner core means strengthening tiny muscles surrounding the spine as well as a layer of muscle that wraps around the abdominal and low back areas.
This layer of muscle is called the transverse abdominus; it can really be considered your body’s natural corset. If this muscle isn’t kept strong, then it’ll loosen up and contribute, among other things, to the belly hanging out.
As you’ve probably already guessed, a lot of people are weak in this area. A huge contributor to this problem is laziness, or to be more precise, slouching...

Why do you need to strenghten the core?

By slouching in a chair, or while standing, the transverse abdominus, along with all the other inner core muscles, isn’t being activated.
Why do you hear so many people suffering from low back pain?
As a result of not being activated, the inner core muscles weaken, and this leads to deteriorating balance/stability, quickness, low back problems, etc.
When we were kids our inner core starts out strong because we need it to be strong in order to learn to walk.
As we get older though, we become lazy with our posture, and in comes the low back pain. Another benefit of keeping the inner core strong is it won’t be a contributor to the outer core muscles becoming too stretched out; they’ll be at the ideal length to develop properly.
So, you should work the inner core. When designing a workout program, it’s essential that you incorporate balance/stability into the program.
By strengthening the inner core, you set yourself up for improvements in every other area of fitness.
I know that this sound like a pretty strong statement, but it’s actually true! Triathletes, track & field athletes, marathoners, NBA athletes, the list goes on, they all incorporate inner core strength into their workout routines.
Strengthening the inner core provides a strong base for the outer core muscles to develop around. The stronger the inner core, the stronger and more developed the outer core. The stronger the inner core, the better your balance will be. The stronger the inner core, the better your quickness (jumping out of the way of a runaway person on rollerblades, seriously, I’ve had to do it before) will be.  Finally, the stronger your inner core, the faster your muscles develop, the faster your power develops, the less likely you’re to get injured, and the faster the pain in different areas of your body (low back for one) goes away.

Core Exercises

Here are some ideas for strengthening your core:

- Side Bridge: lie on your side with your forearm on the floor under your shoulder to prop you up, and your feet stacked. Contract your core and press your forearm against the floor to raise your hips until your body is straight from ankles to shoulders. Hold for 15 to 45 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Contract your abs and butt muscles forcefully to keep your body straight.

- Plank with Diagonal Arm Lift: assume a modified pushup position with your feet shoulder-width apart, forearms on the floor. Keeping your torso steady, raise your right arm for-ward and to the right, so that it points to 2 o'clock. Hold for 2 seconds, then lower and repeat with your left arm, raising it to 10 o'clock. That's one rep. Your elbows should be bent 90 degrees and directly under your shoulders.

- Single-Leg Lowering: lie on your back with your legs extended straight up. Keeping your legs straight, lower your left leg until your foot is 2 to 3 inches off the floor. Return to the starting position, then repeat with your right leg; that's one repetition. Think about pushing the bottom of your heel away from your hip as you lower your leg. Don't point your toes; keep your foot flexed toward you. Lead with your heel.

- Swiss-Ball Knee Tuck: assume the pushup position with your shins resting on a Swiss ball, hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your abs tight, draw your knees toward your chest until your toes are on top of the ball. Slowly straighten your legs so the ball rolls back to the starting position. Lift your hips as you bring your knees toward you so your shins rise off the ball.

Cable Kneeling Chop: at a high-pulley cable, grab an end of rope with each hand. Go down on your right knee, with your left knee pointing toward the weight stack; this is the starting position. Rotate your torso away from the stack as you pull your hands to your chest, then down and away from you. Reverse to the start. Keep your torso upright as you extend your arms away from your body.


Having a strong core will bring you one step closer to TheIronYou!


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