Most fitness fans focus on building a six-pack or a flat belly, but for a strong core, you need more than just tight abs. Basically, all the muscles in your trunk area including obliques on the side, back and hip muscles make up, what fitness experts call, the core muscles.
To lead a healthy life, our bodies need a strong core or foundation. Here we take a look at how to start developing a strong core and the importance of basic core strengthening exercises for everyone.
Why are the benefits of a strong core?
Most people do not realise it, but we use our core muscles for everyday tasks. Core muscles connect the upper and lower body because strong core muscles can help support your lower back. When you feel your back is weak, and it feels painful, the chances are your core has been weakened. Recent studies have revealed that lower back pain is experienced at least once, by half the population, aged 20. It becomes a very common phenomenon after 40. In fact, back pain can affect people of all ages, but it is most common in those between 35 and 55 years old.
You not only increase your balance and flexibility by strengthening the core muscles in your pelvis, hips, lower back and abdomen but also improve your posture, allowing you to walk smartly and decrease the tension in your spine. From sitting down on a chair, lifting your baby, shopping groceries, to mopping the floor and tying your shoelaces, core muscles are used, and they need to be strong. Many sports are fuelled by a strong core like swimming, biking, hiking, tennis and golf. Lower back pain is sometimes linked to a sports injury, a bony lumbar or inflammation in the spine, but their occurrence due to natural ageing can be delayed by proper exercise and diet.
- Full Plank: Also known as elbow plank, this is the most basic plank exercise. Lie straight and flat on your stomach on the exercise mat in a full plank position. Lift the body off the floor with your elbows, aligning your body from head to toe, without raising your hips or bending your knees. Hold and slowly return to the ground.
- Side Plank: Lie straight on the exercise mat but on one side. Lift your hips and knees up with one elbow and balance on one foot, keeping your head aligned with your spine. Hold and slowly return to the ground.
- Walking Planks: From the elbow plank position, raise your body with your arms straight, as if you were doing push-ups. Walk two steps to the right side by lifting your right arm and right foot simultaneously. Repeat by walking to the left side.
- Plank Jacks: Start in the elbow or full plank position. Then ‘hop’ your feet wide back and forth.
- Mountain Climber: From the full plank position, with arms straight, lift the right and left leg alternately, bringing one knee toward your hands.
Jessica Matthews is a true wellness expert. The health professor and yoga teacher recommends that beginners start with simple movements that are similar to our daily activities, such as basic plank exercises to gradually build a strong core. She advises: “If you can hold a plank for 30 seconds, it’s time to add variety and movements. Add movements like rocking forward and back, and side to side.”
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