Think of the central point of the body. Most of us would directly think of the belly area where the infamous 6-packs would be. For men, the perfect physique would include those perfectly-chiseled packs. However, though core strength is more or less similar with having ‘the abs’, they are not necessarily the same. The core of our anatomy is basically the muscles located at the abdominal part including the back and oblique, also known as the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and both external and internal abdominal oblique
Core development and stability are not exclusive only to athletes, wrestlers, or marathoners. Strengthening the core is very important for coordinating functional movements, that we use every day which stimulates the different muscles of the body, most especially the central musculature.
For athletes and bodybuilders, core strength is essential to perform sports- and muscle-specific activities. It is also vital to avoid injuries during training or workout. Exercises that are specialized for core strengthening are, therefore, incorporated into their training programs.
Below, we list down the top five exercises that you could use to develop the core. These exercises could be performed either indoors or outdoors. An extra tip before you begin any of these exercises: always remember to breathe while you execute them. Most commit the error of holding their breaths, but this can only make the exercises more difficult and would come out as a painful task than enjoyable.
Plank is a well-known static core exercise. This exercise targets both the upper and lower abdominal muscles. It, likewise, stimulates muscles in your shoulders, arms and legs.
To perform plank, begin by lying down on your stomach. Next, lift yourself up using your forearms and your toes. Angle your elbows at 90 degrees. Make sure your body is positioned straight. Hold your position for thirty seconds, for beginners. Increase length of time as you progress.
There a few variations to plank. One example is the pushup plank. In this variation, take on a pushup position instead of angling your forearms. This version of plank operates largely on the core and the biceps. You could also raise a leg while doing pushup plank to increase difficulty. A dynamic variety of plank is circle plank. For circle plank, assume pushup position first. Slowly, reach a knee in. Circle it clockwise then counterclockwise, and then switch to the left leg afterwards.
1. Abdominal Crunch
This exercise is another classic for core strengthening. Crunches work on the muscles on the upper abdomen. To execute abdominal crunch, choose a flat ground surface to keep your body neutral and lie on your back with your hands behind the head. You could also cross your arms across your chest. Note that while crunching, you do not use your hands and arms to push you up. Make sure to tighten you abdominals to enable you to perform crunches. Next, lift your legs and bend them to a right angle. You could use the wall to keep your legs in place to make this exercise easier. Push yourself up off the floor and touch your knees with your elbows. Hold it for a few seconds, and then back to starting position. Repeat procedure, and increase the number of reps as you go along with your core training.
Make it more difficult by doing the following variations: (a) you could twist to the side when you go up instead of touching your elbows to your knees, (b) pedal your legs as if you are riding the bicycle, or you could (c) hold extra weights while doing the crunch. For the last version, instead of placing your arms across your chest, hold a weight plate.
2. V-Sit Up Hold
V-Sit up hold is another static core exercise, and primarily targets your abdomen muscles. In this exercise, neutralize your back on a flat ground surface as a starting position. Next is, raise your legs slowly until it is already angled at 45 degrees against the floor. Push yourself up, while reaching your toes with the tips of your fingers. Reach as much as possible. Hold the position for a few seconds. To know if you’re executing it properly, you should look like the letter-V, hence the name.
Make sure the exercise is properly executed. Decrease the number of reps, instead of compromising the execution, to avoid strains after. This exercise is not only great for the core; it also encourages your balance and stability.
4. Leg Raises & Split Arm-Leg Raises
The leg raise exercise can either be static or dynamic. Like V-sit hold up, you could hold a leg raise for a few seconds up. Only, your back should be flat on the floor instead of up like the V-sit. You could also adjust the angle of leg against the floor. For example, your leg could only be up either for a few inches or at a 45-degree angle.
To make it dynamic, you could raise one arm simultaneously with a leg, and then with the other opposite set. To perform it, start with lying flat on the ground. Gradually raise your right arm together with your left leg, and then lower them down until they are three inches above the floor. Raise them once again, and when you lower them down, stop at three inches. Do not touch your leg and arm to the floor until the set is done. While doing this exercise, your head and shoulders should stay flat on the ground to prevent spine injury. Perform the same procedure for the other side; left arm and right leg.
This exercise, like crunch, is core-specific. It focuses more on the abdominal muscles than any other parts of the body.
To perform this exercise, lie with your back flat on the floor. Make sure you are in a neutral position. Bend your knees. Your arms should be at your sides. Gently contract your core muscles, and then lift your hips up. Do not over-arch your back. Keep your head, neck, and shoulders on the ground. Hold it for few seconds. Increase the number of seconds for each rep.
The exercises mentioned above do not require extra equipment. Other exercises that can help strengthening the core require the presence of exercise props, like in plyometrics and core workouts with Swiss balls. There are also sequence exercises that incorporate core development such as yoga. Planks, bridges, and boats are included in different yoga sequences.
To conclude, core strengthening provides a lot of benefits like increased overall strength and coordination, and better flexibility and stability. It could also improve performance in sports and other physical activities, and decrease the probability of acquiring injuries.