One of the muscle groups that most gym enthusiasts gravitate towards is the core. This is largely thanks to the strong desire for the perfect abs fueled by the media. The core is, however, a lot more than just abs and is a crucial muscle group that aids in almost every activity day-to-day.
Although visible abs are desired by many, there are far more reasons to have a stronger core, even if you are someone who is not a gym rat.
The core is vital in adding stability and a base of strength for the whole body and is used in a variety of functions. Put simply, a stronger core makes your entire life easier!
What is the core?
The core is the muscle group present in the center of our body, below the chest and lat, and above the gluteus and thighs. This includes the pelvis, hips, abs, and lower back.
The function of the core is to protect the spinal cord and stabilize the body. This, in turn, makes having a strong core a crucial factor in having good posture.
It helps in the transfer of strength between the upper and lower halves of the body and is also the source of static strength for the upper and lower halves of the body to swing from.
Why is it important to work out your core muscles?
The core is the one muscle group that never stops working. While most muscle groups are only in use while performing certain functions, the core is used to perform every function to some degree.
In fact, we can’t even get up from bed in the morning without employing our core muscles.
Having a strong core is essential when it comes to performing our day-to-day tasks with ease.
A stronger core provides stability to the body whilst supplying the strength for other muscle groups to perform their tasks. The core also facilitates the transfer of strength from the legs to the hands, and vice versa.
Having a weak core can leave you prone to injuries as you can hurt yourself exerting pressure while performing physical tasks.
It also has a terrible impact on the posture, causing a gradual slouch. It is important to work out the core to reduce the risk of injuries and to help correct your posture.
Core exercises can also potentially lead to the highly coveted visible abs.
However, it is important to note that visible abs are more dependent on low body fat percentage, which is a result of a sustained calorie deficit diet, and not just core exercise. Core exercise can, however, help you build and tone your abs.
10 Popular Core Strengthening Exercises
One of the easiest and most fun ways to strengthen your core is by swimming. Apart from being a fun and refreshing activity, swimming is a great physical activity to incorporate into your lifestyle.
When taking a swim, you are forced to balance your body with your core as you try to propel forward using your arms and legs. Swimming also works your lower back, which is an often ignored part of the core. As an added bonus, swimming is a cardio-intensive routine too!
It’s often said that one minute is too short, that is until you planking. The classic plank is a tried and tested method to engage your core and increase your stability.
It can be done from the comfort of your home sans any extra equipment. This makes it a highly suitable exercise to start with for beginners.
Apart from helping improve your core, the plank is also effective in minimizing back pain and correcting posture. It is important to understand the effects of a plank plateau after 1-2 minutes.
It is, therefore, not advisable to plank beyond two minutes. When you have progressed to the point of doing a two-minute plank with ease, you can move on to planking with weights or try out other variants, like the side plank.
Crunches are the most widely recognized core strengthening exercise. These are the most common abs exercises used by people in a bid to bring out their hidden abs.
Crunches are easy to perform but difficult to train to failure. This makes them the perfect core exercise for those looking to build core endurance.
You can increase your core endurance by pushing a little more till you reach the point of near failure, every day. This exercise does not require any equipment to be performed, making it another great exercise for beginners.
(iv) Bicycle crunches
Bicycle crunches are a dynamic twist on classic crunches.
It retains all the advantages of doing crunches, like not needing equipment or space, as well as the strengthening of abs, and adds to it by doubling the effect on stability and obliques.
This gives you an even core definition and strength, making it a must-have exercise for training your core.
(v) Mountain climbers
Imagine an exercise that gives you a full body workout while boosting your core stability and strength that also burns calories by also being a cardio-intensive activity. Guess what? That is the exact foundation of mountain climbers.
This dynamic exercise works out your arms, back, legs, and shoulders apart from working the core. This makes mountain climbers the perfect choice for those looking to tone their bodies and lose weight while working on the core.
(vi) Leg lifts
If you’re exhausted from doing those mountain climbers, here is an exercise you can perform lying down in one place.
Leg lifts are one of the few core strengthening exercises that focuses on lower abs and are vital in order to even out core strength and definition. This exercise challenges the strength and balance of your lower back while working to strengthen the lower abs.
Leg lifts are deceptively difficult and pose a challenge when done with proper form. For more advanced effects, you can try adding weights to your ankles while performing them.
(vii) Flutter kicks
A slightly more advanced version of the leg lifts is the flutter kicks. This too can be performed by lying down in one place in the comfort of your home.
Performing it, however, can be far from comfortable. This exercise demands constant balance and control as you oscillate between one leg to the other.
Flutter kicks work to strengthen your core stability and flexibility due to the constant demand for balance as well as the shift between the two limbs.
This exercise is best performed to a pre-set timer, much like the plank, rather than to a rep count, like crunches.
(viii) Hanging leg raises
This is another exercise that can strengthen your back and shoulders while being excellent for your abs. This can be performed as long as you have access to any bar that can hold your weight when you hang down using your arms.
Hanging leg raises are an excellent workout that sculpts your lower abs while stabilizing your lower back. This is one of the most effective core exercises and is used even by professional athletes looking to strengthen their abs.
(ix) Russian twists
One of the most ignored regions of the core is oblique. While the abs get the most love, the oblique lies are forgotten. Though the abs might be such a huge source of appeal, thanks to TV, it is impossible to attain them without having a well-rounded core.
Russian twists are among the best exercises to work out the oblique as they strengthen the muscles while also increasing stability. You can try to complete a set of Russian twists without moving away from the spot you started at as an added challenge.
(x) Windshield wipers
This is another great exercise to work out your oblique while strengthening your lower back. Windshield wipers are another simple exercise that can be performed lying down from the comfort of your home without using any equipment.
Windshield wipers have the unique ability to be an effective workout for your oblique as well as the lower abs, two of the most difficult muscles to work out in isolation.
The core is one of the most important muscle groups in our body and is essential for a lot of day-to-day activities. It is vital to have a strong core to lead a healthy life without ailments.
Following these core strengthening exercises regularly will help you perform better in any activity that requires physical strength, from getting your groceries to playing sports. Start on your journey towards a stronger core today!
Q1: What muscles are part of the core?
Ans: The core muscles make up the central part of our bodies. It includes the stomach (abs), pelvis, hips, and lower back.
Q2: Is it important to have a strong core even if you don’t have an active lifestyle?
Ans: Yes, the core is an essential muscle group that is vital in providing balance to the body. It is used in almost every physical activity that we perform.
Q3: Does a stronger core boost performance in a sport?
Ans: A stronger core leads to greater balance and stability, which gives a crucial advantage in any sport. It also helps in the transfer of power from the lower half of the body to the upper half, and vice versa. This can provide a significant advantage in any sport.
Q4: How often should you train the core?
Ans: It is possible to have an intense training session of the core 2-3 times a week. Alternatively, you can choose to train your core in moderation up to 6 days a week. This is because compared to other muscle groups, the core requires minimal rest.
Q5: Is core training suitable for older people?
Ans: Older people would benefit from the improved flexibility and stability that is a result of a stronger core. Additionally, a stronger core would help reduce the chances of injuries whilst reducing back pain.
It is, however, important to be careful while training to avoid injuries. They should progress at a rate that is comfortable for them.
Q6: Can core training help in weight loss?
Ans: Most core training exercises focus on building a stronger core and are aimed at muscle growth. However, there are certain exercises, like mountain climbing and swimming, that can help you lose weight while strengthening your core.
Q7: Is it possible to strengthen the core without going to a gym?
Ans: Yes, most core exercises require minimal or no equipment and can be performed from the comfort of your home.
Q8: Will training the core lead to visible abs?
Ans: Core exercises will help you strengthen your core and build muscles. However, visible abs are dependent on body fat percentage. A sustained calorie-deficit diet would be needed to achieve visible abs.
Q9: Will core exercises help reduce belly fat?
Ans: No, spot reduction is a myth. It is not possible to choose which part of the body you lose weight from. Core exercises will help you build ab muscles. When following a sustained calorie deficit diet, you will begin to notice an even weight loss across your body.
Q10: Is working the core enough to have a fit body?
Ans: It is true that the core is a crucial muscle group that is useful in a huge range of physical activities. However, to have a well-rounded fit body, it is important to moderately train other muscle groups as well.