When you think about core strength, you envision a flat stomach or six-pack abs. However, core strength goes far beyond looking good in a swimsuit and focuses on more than the abdominal muscles. Our core consists of multiple layers of muscles and not just the abdominals.

What Is the “Core?”

When you hear “core strength,” your mind likely goes straight to that image of a bikini-clad woman in an ad for the latest ab gadget infomercial. While she may, in fact, have a strong core, there are many more components to core strength beyond having washboard abdominals.

The core muscles are found in multiple layers and include muscles in the hips, lower back, chest, and of course, abdominals. These muscles act as stabilizers, allowing you to move and balance properly.

Benefits of Developing and Maintaining a Strong Core

There are many life-improving benefits to having a strong core, from preventing falls to reducing back pain and many points between. Some of the more important benefits are:

Balance and Stability: Your core’s primary function is to stabilize your trunk and offer a strong functional base for your arms and legs, which do a more dynamic movement. A strong core at its most basic function allows you to walk, sit, get up from sitting, lay down flat, and get up with ease.

Injury Prevention: Research has shown that people with increased core stability have a lower risk of injury. The increased strength in the core muscles provides protection against injury to the spine in everyday situations.

Pain Reduction: A body that is held in proper alignment by strong core muscles will be less prone to back and neck pain. A weak core forces other muscles that aren’t suited for the job to jump in and compensate, which can cause further instability, muscle strains, and pain – most commonly the lower back.

Better Posture – Better Breathing: A strong core helps you hold your body in good alignment, which over time lessens the wear and tear on other muscles. Good posture also allows for better, deeper breathing.

Strength and Speed in Sports and Other Exercises: Beyond the basics of helping you easily move throughout your day without fear of injury, having a strong core can help you perform better in sports and other exercises. A strong core can help you run faster, move better overall, and even lift heavier weight – helping you be more efficient in the sport overall.

Basic Moves to Improve Core Strength

As we’ve established, core strength goes beyond the abdominals alone, so to develop core strength, you’ll need to go beyond the standard “ab exercises” of crunches or sit-ups. Here are a few basic full core exercises that you can do at home:

Plank Holds: Place your forearms on the ground, with elbows in line with the shoulders, and arms parallel to your body, shoulder with apart. Push toes into the floor, squeeze your glutes, and stabilize yourself with your head, back, and legs in line. Hold for 20-30-60 seconds as you become more comfortable.

Hollow Body Hold: Lying down on your back with your arms overhead, contract your abdominals, pushing your belly button to your spine. Slowly raise your shoulders and legs up from the ground.

Refer to this video for a detailed demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyrUmzIHmzw

Side Planks: Beginning in the plank position, rotate your body so that you are resting on one arm and foot, the body now perpendicular to the floor. Keep your middle tight as you hold your body straight in this position. Repeat with the other side.

Bird Dog: From the plank position, reach one arm straight out in front of you and the opposite leg straight out behind you, stretching and stabilizing, keeping your trunk still and straight.

Refer to this video for reference on these three exercises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql8qf61rCDo

Single Leg Glute Bridge: Lying on your back with both heels close to your bottom, knees up. Extend one leg, and squeezing the glutes, raise your hips to parallel with your knees, keeping both hips even.

Refer to this video for reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4iIHsttaac

Superman Hold: Lying face down with arms stretched out overhead (as if you are flying like Superman), squeeze your glutes and back to raise your chest and legs off the floor. Keep your head neutral, looking down. Release and repeat.

Refer to this video for reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4iIHsttaac

Of course, if you have any questions about if any of these exercises are appropriate for you, would like to discuss modifications or alternatives to these exercises, or you’re wondering how core strength can benefit you specifically, connect with us at South Orange Chiropractic Center.

Make an appointment today!