Your core is the entire center of your body, from your shoulders to your hips. It is like the trunk of a tree, with your limbs acting like branches.
The trunk’s role is to hold the entire tree upright. If the trunk is weak, the whole tree will fall down. The same holds true with your core. If it is weak, you will be far more likely to suffer from back injury and poor posture.
It is a general misconception that your core is limited to your abdominal area. In my opinion, it extends far beyond that area. To holistically improve and strengthen your core, you need to include your hips, base of the shoulders, and entire back region.
You do have specific deep-core muscles, your pelvic floor, and transversus abdominis, which play a fundamental role in core strength and conditioning. So they need attention as well as the areas mentioned.
These three great moves will help strengthen your core, including the deep and the superficial muscles of the stomach. They will also increase stability in the shoulder and pelvic areas.
Start by lying on your stomach. Press yourself up onto your elbows and toes. Lift one leg and hold anywhere between 10 to 30 seconds. Switch legs.
Keep your back straight, avoiding any arching in your back. If it feels too difficult at first, work from your knees instead of your toes.
It is important to engage your deep core muscles while you hold the plank pose and take deep, long inhalations and exhalations to help support your core muscles.
Plank Knee Pulls
Position your body on your hands and feet. Inhale first and exhale as you lift your right foot off the floor and bring it toward your chest. Replace and repeat with the other leg. Keep alternating between each side, completing a set of 20.
This is great for strengthening your core and will also work on the stability through your shoulders, upper back, and chest. For variety and an ab workout that focuses more on the obliques, pull your knee toward your opposite underarm.
Place your hands behind your head, with your elbows out to the side. Rotate your opposite rib to your hip. Switch sides.
It is important to lead with your underarm, not your elbow. This will give you a much deeper workout for your obliques. Also avoid rocking through the center of your body. Keep your core anchored and still. All the movement comes from your legs and upper body.
Emma-Kate Stampton certifies Pilates instructors and is a certified personal trainer. She is based in Brisbane, Australia.