CORE – what is it good for?! ABSolutely everything!
Everyone talks about core strength, engaging the core, having a strong core etc. But, what even is “the core”? And how exactly do we engage and strengthen it?
Not just your 6 pack abs! The core consists of the 29 muscles that attach to the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex. It is the body’s centre of gravity and where all movement begins. It gives your body stabilization and is vital to all movement. A strong, stable core is a necessary foundation for the rest of your body.
You’ve probably heard your personal trainer or someone at the gym saying “flex your core”, or “engage your abs”. But how exactly do you know if your core is switched on? At Iron Lab we like to use the term “brace”. A brace is simply tightening as if someone was going to punch you in the stomach, or the feeling you get when you cough. You can practice bracing by poking your sides with your fingers, right under your rib cage, and coughing, and then holding that bracing sensation as long as you can. Then practice engaging those muscles without the cough.
Many people have a strong movement system, but have weak core stabilizing muscles. This can be a common variable for people with low back pain symptoms. Improving your core stability will help protect your lower back, as well as incase your balance and strength during exercises and daily movements. Always remember to maintain a neutral position with the spine during core training for improved posture and muscle balance.
SUPINE TOE TAPS – knees at 90-degrees, brace the core and straighten one leg so it nearly touches the ground, pause and bring back up to 90-degrees. Alternate sides.
ONE LEG GLUTE BRIDGE – Lie on your back with knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart and 12–16 inches from glutes. Lift your right leg so it’s straight up in the air at hip height with your foot flexed. Keeping your upper back on the floor, engage your glutes, drive through your left heel, and raise your hips off the ground until your knee, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Keep your core engaged the entire time. Pause at the top, squeezing your glutes for one to two seconds. Then lower back down to the start. Complete all your reps, then switch legs.
PLANK TOE TAPS – Place forearms on mat, elbows under shoulders. Place legs together with forefeet on floor and feet. Raise body upward by straightening body in straight line between ankles, knees, hips and shoulders. Extend one foot out wide to the side keeping the leg straight and tap your toe to the ground, then bring the leg back straight with the body. Repeat with the other leg, continuing to alternate in repeating the exercise. Only move your lower body, try to keep the hips, waist, shoulders and head still.
BIRD DOGS – Kneel with knees hip-width apart and your hands firmly placed on the ground about shoulder-width apart. Brace the core. Point the arm out straight in front and extend the opposite leg behind you. You should form one straight line from your hand to your foot, keeping hips squared to the ground. If your low back begins to sag, raise your leg only as high as you can while keeping your back straight. Hold for a few seconds then return your hands and knees to the starting position. Alternate sides.