The word “Core” is thrown about my many people who maybe aren’t that familiar with what it really means. In this week’s article, I will be giving you the low down on what the Core is, what it’s comprised of and some of the best exercises to target the area.
So, what is it?
The core is generally made up of the muscles that run the length of the trunk and torso; also different experts like to include different muscles as well. Below is a list of muscles more commonly known and associated when working your core;
- Erector Spinae – This group of muscles runs from you neck, along your spine and attaches to your lower back. They act to elevate and straighten the spine.
- Transverse Abdominis – This muscle is the deepest of the abdominals and is located around the torso looking very similar to a corset or a weight belt. It helps with respiration, breathing, protection and stability.
- Rectus Abdominis – located down the front of the abdomen and is most well-known abdominal muscle from the rest. It acts to flex the spine and draw the pelvis forward.
- Multifidus – This powerful muscle gives support to the spine by taking pressure off the vertebral discs so that our body weight can be well distributed. It also allows extension and rotation of the spine and is located under the Erector Spinae.
- Internal Obliques – These act to Flex and rotate the trunk and are located under the external Obliques but running in the opposite direction.
- External Obliques – These also act to Flex and rotate the trunk and are located on the front and either side of the abdomen.
- Hip flexors – This group of muscles are comprised of the Psoas Major, Rectus Femoris, Sartorius, Pectineus, and Illiacus. They are located in the front of the pelvis and upper thigh and act together to bring the trunk and legs together through a flexion motion.
- Gluteus Maximus, Piriformis and Hamstrings – All located in the back of the hip and upper thigh acting to straighten and extend the thigh at the hip.
- Gluteus Minimus and Medius – These are located and the side of the hip area and act to raise the thigh away from the body at the hip.
So now we know what the core is made up of, what are the benefits of it?
By building up a strong core will enable you to protect yourself from injury and also improve your athletic performance. It’s a little bit like building a house; if it hasn’t got a solid foundation then the finished creation won’t stay upright for long. This is a great example if you think of your core as your very own foundation; just as the house may start to crumble, so will you. Poor posture, back pain and many other injuries you think may have nothing to do with your core, may in actual fact be because your body is relying on other muscles to do the job that a strong core should be doing!
Balanced core muscles will help maintain good posture and help reduce unnecessary strain on the spine that can easily be avoided!
As the muscles of the trunk and torso stabilize the spine all the way from the pelvis through the neck and to the shoulders, they allow the transfer of power to the arms and legs. All powerful movements come from the centre of the body outwards, never from the limbs alone.
Let’s get down to some hard – CORE training!
Core strengthening exercises are most effective when the torso works as a solid unit and both front and back muscles contract at the same time. One of the most popular being the “Squat”; used mainly for strength training of the legs but if done correctly can be a superb workout for your core muscles. To make sure you reap the full benefits, and work your core efficiently, abdominal bracing is a basic technique that should be applied to everything. Whilst drawing your navel backwards in toward your spine, breathing should be even and controllable without you feeling the need to hold your breath.
What Are the Best Core Exercises?
Some of the best core exercises are simple bodyweight exercises, including the following;
- Plank/ Side plank
- Bicycle Crunch
- Mountain Climber
- Press Up
- Glute Bridge
- Oblique (Russian) twist
- Leg raise
- Lunge with a twist
- Superman (arms then legs as both at the same time may damage your lower back)
- Abdominal crunch machine
- Back extension
- Leg raise/ Knee raise (Captains chair)
- Woodchopper (With Kettlebell or cables)
- Hanging leg raise/ knee raise
- Kneeling cable crunch
- Dumbbell side bend
You can create your own unique core workout by mixing any selection from the lists above. After you have chosen the ones you would like to include in your workout, perform them consecutively with a rest interval in between each set. I would advise no more than four sets to be completed in total.
For beginners – Choose a maximum of four exercises with a 60 second rest, then repeat.
For intermediate athletes – Choose a maximum of six-eight exercises with a 90 second rest and repeat.
For the advanced – Choose a maximum of 10 exercises, both including bodyweight and using equipment. Enjoy up to a two minute rest interval and then repeat again.
Let me know how you get on.
Keep training, harder and better to become faster and stronger!
Rayner Jordan – Women’s Fitness Specialist