You’re only as strong as your weakest link.
And unfortunately, for most, that’s the core.
How do you know if you have a weak core?
Do you have poor posture when you sit, stand, and walk?
- Do your shoulders slump forward?
- Is it challenging for you to sit or stand straight?
- A strong core will hold you upright and support proper posture.
Do you rely a lot on your arms?
- Do you use your arms to get out of bed, a chair, or up off of the floor?
- Building a strong core will allow you to do these activities without the use of your arms.
Do you notice lower back pain as you walk or after prolonged standing?
- Do you focus your core training on crunches?
- Your core is more than developing the 6 pack.
- Back pain can come from a lack of strength when you focus on one part of the core (crunches) vs. building the entire core (planks). I will talk more about crunches and planks below.
- By engaging the muscles on the front, side, and back of the body, you will build a healthy, balanced, and stable core.
Nagging back pain and an overall weakness in your core can be frustrating. You spend plenty of time in the gym, doing your crunches, so why do you still have a weak core?
First, let’s define the core.
For most, the focus is on developing the 6 pack. It looks good, right?
If you want to develop a functional core that supports you in daily movement and keeps you injury-free and pain-free, start to think about the core as your entire trunk, from your collar bone to your thigh.
Your core includes the muscles on the front, two sides, and the back of your trunk, and yes, that includes your hips.
The sit-up, a popular exercise, is an isolated movement that focuses on one muscle group. It may carve a fantastic looking 6 pack, but that is only a small part of your overall core.
The plank, on the other hand, will strengthen the entire core. It is a full-body exercise that will keep your spine healthy, support good posture, and will maintain an injury-free and pain-free body.
Unlike sit-ups, a plank protects your spine.
By bracing your core, you protect the spine creating a healthy, well balanced, durable, and stable core. A stable core will resist flexion (bending forward), extension (bending backward), and rotation (twisting of the spine) as you move.
The best exercise to build a healthy, durable, and stable spine is the plank. Perform your plank in a neutral spine. From a neutral spine, your movements are stronger, your spine can take on higher loads, and will reduce the risk of injury.
How does a plank translate to real-life function?
The plank is the foundation of your daily movements, from a push, pull, and rotate to the squat and lunge.
The plank supports you when you stand and sit. When you walk, run, hike, swim, bike, sit in the car or at your desk, play with your kids (or grandkids), as well as in your daily chores and activities such as gardening, housework, shopping, running errands, etc.
So, how do you build a healthy, well balanced, durable, and stable core?
To help you get started on the right foot, I’m sharing my favorite core exercises. Please click here to see the proper form and technique for each exercise.
On forearms, hold for 20 sec to start, working up to 30 sec. Repeat 2-3 times. When you can reach that goal with proper form, add extra time to each hold.
On the forearm, hold for 20 sec to start, working up to 30 sec. Repeat 2-3 times. When you can reach that goal with proper form, add extra time to each hold.
On forearms, keep your shoulders stable and the weight even in both arms as you rotate the hips side to side. Reps – 10 on each side.
From a neutral spine, hinge up into a bridge, pause for a breath, then lower. Maintain a stable spine as you lift and lower your hips. Reps – 15.
Focus on using your back muscles to lift you into extension vs. using your hands or momentum. Pause at the top for a breath, then lower. Reps – 15.
Here’s to building a healthy, well balanced, more durable, and stable core.
I recommend doing this workout 2-3 times per week. If you choose to add time or reps to your workout, listen to your body, it will tell you if it’s too much.
If you enjoyed this blog and would like to take your core training to the next level, or if you have limitations that keep you from doing an exercise, please reach out. I’d love to support and guide you into a more specific core program that meets your needs.