These days, core strength gets a lot of hype. And it should. Having a strong core is a foundational part of physical fitness and can even make a dramatic difference in how you perform daily activities. But before you commit to a 30-day crunch challenge or see how long you can hold a plank, get to know a little more about your core. If you want a stronger midsection, here are six things you must know, courtesy of Sommer Vriezelaar, a personal trainer with ProMedica Wildwood Athletic Club.
1. Your core is more than your abs.
Before you can strengthen your core, you have to know what it is. And it’s much more than just your abdominal muscles. Think of your core as the section from your shoulders to your hips, all the way around your body and deep within your body. This includes not only your outer abdominal muscles, but also your deepest abdominal muscles, your entire back muscles, your pelvic muscles, the muscles at the side and back of your hips, your upper thighs and more. That’s a lot of muscles. If you want a stronger core, you can’t just focus on some of them.
2. A strong core is important for everyday activities.
There are so many benefits to having a strong core! Your core is where movement originates and is the source of your stability. Building core strength could improve your posture, protect you from lower back pain and make you more functionally fit to lift your toddler (especially when they become dead weight in your arms!) or rearrange your furniture. Think about the amazing impact a strong core can have in your daily life. Plus, you’ll probably see a difference in your workout routine, too. Whether you’re running or lifting weights, a strong core often means more powerful and controlled movements.
3. A strong core does not mean a flattened stomach.
Strengthening your core means building up your core muscles. But if you have fat around your tummy, these muscles will still be hidden by fat. If you want a flattened stomach, a well-designed nutritional and exercise program that burns fat will get you there faster than doing core exercises. On the other hand, if you are following a well-designed program, don’t be discouraged if your belly doesn’t get smaller right away. Those deep core muscles may be getting stronger even if you can’t see it.
4. A strong core does not mean you won’t have back pain.
Unfortunately, back problems are often too complex to treat with a strong core. Building your core muscles is only one part of having a pain-free back. Things like good posture, efficient movement, good cardiovascular fitness, and flexibility all factor in to having a healthy back. Core strength may provide additional support and stability, but it isn’t a cure-all.
5. When it comes to core exercises, think quality over quantity.
Here’s some good news: Doing thousands of reps isn’t the key to building core strength. Doing a small amount of reps very well is. That means it’s more important to perform 15 repetitions that focus on perfect technique and target the right muscles than to cheat the exercise to attain a high rep. So before you add core exercises to your routine, make sure that you know the proper form. Focus on doing each move correctly and if you start to lose form, take a break.
6. Building core strength requires variety.
Remember the first thing on this list? Your core includes lots of muscles. Six-pack training only focuses on some of the superficial muscles, ignoring all of the deep muscle layers and other superficial muscles. A good core regimen includes a variety of exercises that target different core muscles. One of the best workouts for building core strength is TRX Suspension Training. Other good core exercises include planks, push ups, V-sits, squats, bridges, oblique twists, lunges with a twist, and supermans.
Building core strength is an important part of an exercise plan. But don’t forget these six facts when incorporating core exercises into your routine. Add the right movements to target all of your muscles, practice good form and have realistic expectations of your results.