When you hear core exercise what do you think about? Most people will think of their abs. If you are one of them you are right. However just by thinking of only your belly, you are missing out on the other important parts of your core. Your core include your hips, back, sides, pelvic, abs and buttock muscle
Your core acts as a link between your lower and upper body. Think of a tree. The trunk of the tree (stem) connects the roots and branches and holds them firmly in place. If it is weak, a strong wind can easily break it and cause the entire tree to wither. The tree trunk performs the same work as your core.It has to be strong to perform the job of giving you balance and stability or your entire body suffers.
All the movements that makes up your daily activity makes use of and most times originates from your core. For you to be strong and balanced , you core must be strong. Some of these activity includes:
- Getting out of bed
- Sitting down
- Stooping to lift your child
- Picking things up
- Turning to look back
How do I know if my core is weak?
There are simple tests you can do with your trainer in the gym or at home to check your core status:
One of my favorite core test requires that you hold a plank position for 10-20 seconds. Most times, people who do this the first time in the gym find it difficult to hold the position for 5 seconds. But, in a couple of weeks, they can go for more than 20 – 30 seconds. This shows that their core is getting stronger. This is achieved by the introduction of core exercises to their routine
To do the test, assume a pushup position. Bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulder to your ankle. Do not stick up your buttocks in the air. Suck your stomach in as if you are pulling your belly button towards your spine. Hold the position as long as you can. Hold in proper form by not letting your abs sag or your knees to hit the floor for 10-20 seconds.
Leg lift exercise
Stand with your legs shoulder width apart.
Keep your shoulder back and chest up.
Keep your arms raised and extended by your side at shoulder length.
Lift your right leg leg as high as you can to your side slowly, and gently take it down
Repeat with your left leg
Did you stagger or were you able to hold your balance?
Other signs that show you have a weak core are
- Bad posture: Slouching? Yes,that is a sign of a weak core. People that slouch have a curved upper body and a protruding belly.
- Back pain:More than 80% of Nigerians have back pain and this is related to a weak core.
- Lack of balance and stability: Weak core may lead to instability which can be noticed when a person stands up or makes a quick movement.
Exercises that will strengthen your core
1 Reverse crunch
Lie on your back and place your arms by your side. Raise your knees and feet so they create a 90-degree angle. Contract your abs and exhale as you lift your hips off the floor with a slow and controlled movement; your knees will move toward your head. Inhale and slowly lower. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
2 Reverse crunch (Variation):
Lie on your back and keep your hands behind your head . Bend your right knee. Raise the left leg and put your left feet on your right knee. Contract your abdominals and exhale as you lift your hips off the floor with control; your right knee will move toward your chest. Try to keep your knees at a right angle. Inhale and slowly lower. Do not allow your right leg feet to touch the ground before lifting it again. Repeat 10 to 12 times.
3 Mountain climbers
Start in a push up position. Your hands should be directly under your chest. Make sure body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Lift your right foot off the floor and slowly raise your knee as close to your chest as you can.Return to the starting position and repeat with your left leg. Repeat 8-12 times.
Assume a pushup position. Bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulder to your ankle. Do not stick up your buttocks in the air. Suck your stomach in as if you are pulling your belly button towards your spine. Hold the position as long as you can. Keep challenging yourself by holding for an extra second each time.
5 Side plank
Turn onto your right side with your legs fully extended, your feet and hips resting on the ground and stacked on top of each other. You may also keep one feet on the ground. Place your right elbow directly under your shoulder to prop up your hip and buttocks. Do not bend your head. Align your head with your spine. Gently suck in your abs and lift your hips and knees off the floor. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position. Gently turn on to your left side and repeat.
6 Spider plank crunch
Assume a pushup position. Place your hands on the ground directly beneath your shoulders, legs extended backwards. Lift your right leg and bring your knee towards the outside of your right elbow. Return to pushup position and repeat with the other leg. Both legs count as one rep. Repeat 8- 12 times.
7 The kettlebell swing
Use a kettlebell that is comfortable but challenging so you do not get hurt or drop it. Stand over the kettlebell with feet hip-width apart, your chest up with shoulders back and down. Squat down and grip the kettlebell with palms facing you and thumbs wrapped loosely around the handle. Driving through your heel, explode through the hips to send that weight swinging upward to eye level with the arms extended. Tighten your abs, snap your hips and squeeze your buttocks.
Let the kettlebell descend to the starting position .
Core exercises will also help you in getting flat abs. Add these 7 exercises to your exercise routine and get the double benefit of a strong core and a well toned body.
If you are in a job that requires you to be inactive for more than 4 hours each day and you do not get any exercise, you are at risk of having a weak core. Start doing the exercises above. Sit up in your chair and tighten your abs regularly.
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