Having a strong core is an important part of overall health. People with strong core muscles have the strength they need to lift heavy items, comfortably get up off the floor, and climb steep hills with good posture—not to mention a host of benefits for athletic performance. Core exercises can improve health, reduce the risk of back injury and improve overall posture. Core exercises can also help you to tone your muscles and give you that much coveted six-pack!
Your core muscles are the muscles around your hips, pelvis and lower back. These muscles are intertwined and layered. Because of this, core exercises target all the muscles in the area, not just a particular set of muscles. The goal is to get all of the muscles in the area working together in order to get the best results.
There are four major muscle groups in your core area. The rectus abdominis runs along your abdomen while the erector spinae muscles go from your lower back all the way to the base of your skull. The oblique muscles are the group that are most often talked about. These muscles run along the sides of the rectus abdominus. The transversus abdominis muscles are the abdominal muscles that are below the obliques, often referred to as the deep sleeping abdominal muscles.
It is important to exercise all of the core muscles during a core workout, not just one set of muscles. There are several exercises that can help with this goal.
The plank is an exercise move that targets the abdominal muscles as well as the lower back muscles. To do the plank, you first lie face down on the floor. Then, raise your legs and stomach off the floor, balancing the weight of your body on your toes and hands. Your entire body should be flat. Actually, your body will look like a plank if the exercise is done properly.
Leg raises are also a good example of a core exercise. Leg raises work the abdominal muscles as well as the back muscles. To do leg raises properly, lie down on your back with your legs out flat and slowly raise your legs a few inches off the ground, keeping your knees straight. Hold your legs in position for several seconds before slowly lowering. To make this exercise more difficult, you may want to add ankle weights.
Torso lifts are also another good exercise to target the core muscles. They are similar to the popular ‘Cobra’ pose in yoga. To do a torso lift, you should first lay face down on the floor. Slowly raise your upper torso off the ground using your hands to push yourself up, making sure to keep your hips touching the floor. Stop when you feel a stretch in your hip flexors and hold the pose for 10 seconds. Then, slowly lower yourself back to the floor.
Abdominal crunches are another easy exercise that can really help to strengthen your core muscles. Basically, crunches are similar to sit-ups. However, you do not need to sit up all the way to do a crunch. Instead, you simply crunch your abdominal muscles and raise your head and upper back off the floor. Cross your arms over your chest instead of placing them behind the head, as this tends to put excessive stress on the neck.