Strolling through the RMH Wellness Center, it's likely you will hear our staff discussing the importance of core strength. You'll also see personal trainers demonstrating exercise progressions to their clients that will better utilize the core. If the general public were asked, many would admit that the concept and purpose of core strength is a foreign, confusing idea. My goal here is to define core strength and its benefits, and briefly talk about how you can begin to add core strengthening exercises to your workout program.
What is your core? An easier question would be: what isn't your core? If you were to remove your arms, your legs and your hips, you would be left with your core. The primary muscles of the core are the rectus abdominis, external obliques, traversus abdominis, upper and lower traps, serratus anterior and your glutes (see pictures at right). The core is where all movements in the human body should originate, specifically the transverse abdominis. The transverse abdominis is nature's weight belt; it originates from the lower spine, wraps around the body and attaches to the ribs, abdominals and pelvis. When we draw the belly button toward the spine and up toward the ribs, we're essentially "tightening our belt". Try doing that now. While seated in a chair, sit up and make yourself as tall and thin as possible. If you are feeling this in your stomach area, you have just learned how to contract your transverse abdominis. If you are having trouble, wrap a rope or measuring tape around your waist and draw in the abdomen away from the rope.
Training the muscles of the core corrects postural imbalances that can lead to poor posture and injuries. The greatest benefit of core training is to develop functional fitness - that is, fitness that is essential to daily living activities. Once you get the right muscles working, you will be amazed at how much stronger you feel. A good way to think about core training is:
- Changing the way you think about
- Resistance training
The great thing about core training is that you can incorporate it into exercises you already do! For example, a proper seated leg extension is accomplished seated with the back positioned flat on the pad (which is an excellent way to train your quads). To incorporate your core, do that same exercise not using the back pad, sitting upright and making yourself tall and thin. Performed this way, you not only have a great quad exercise, but now you are using core muscles to stabilize your body. Think of it this way: the more stable you are (seated, back positioned against a pad, pushing a weight in a fixed path), the fewer core muscles you are using. The less stable you are, the more core muscles you are using. Try doing a normal overhead press seated on a ball instead of the bench. Or try doing bicep curls standing on just one leg. These are some very simple ways to maximize your workouts and improve core strength.
For more ideas, give me a call at 540.564.5698 to set up a meeting with a personal trainer. We offer half-hour and hour sessions for both members and non-members. Check us out at RMHWellnessCenter.com.
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