5 Ways to work those core muscles!
Little do we realize, our core muscles do a lot in helping us with basic and more complex movements. One of the biggest and most popular reasons as to why people want to work their core muscles (aside from the fact that a strong core looks so fabulous) are the clear health benefits that having a strong core provides, such as:
- Greater coordination and balance
- Better posture
- Better breathing
- Conscious and engaged muscles
What are the core muscles?
First things first, so exactly where are these mysterious core muscles situated within the body? Don’t feel self conscious and afraid to ask this question. Knowledge is power. From a very general view, the core muscles are not simply the so called ‘six pack’ muscles that we’ve come to know through popular media. Core muscles may be found toward the stomach and extend to some parts of the lower back, glutes, the sides or the obliques.
To really truly understand the concept of core muscles and how they serve you, you need to imagine your stomach and its surrounding muscles as your center of gravity. For men and women the centre of gravity is situated slightly differently as men carry theirs in their shoulders and upper body which is their widest part and women carry theirs in the waist and hips, their widest part. Gender aside, your stomach and its surrounding core muscles should be treated as the epicenter from which all activities originate, because for any given activity that we perform we are usually engaging our core to help us do the necessary task.
Think about it, the middle of your body, where the chief number of your core muscles are found, is in fact the connecting space between the upper and lower body. It dictates the movement and synchronization between both parts of the body and, if you want to stretch a point, it is the communication point between the two parts.
So where does one begin. Well you may have found yourself at the gym one evening having seen one of these things, scratched your head and wondered what on earth should I do next?
Yes it may seem daunting at first but in fact correct technique and regular use of one of these babies really can help you engage your core muscles in ways that you never before imagined.
- Improves Spinal stability
- Increases muscle usage
- Improves posture
Check out this really cool video on a variety of simple and effective exercises that you can try with a Stability Ball from the comfort of your living room!
Another mysterious buzz word that we hear a lot of these days is ‘planking’. No, there aren’t any pieces of wood involved, as one might imagine, all you need to do to work toward as your end goal is hold your body in a variety of positions that allow you to be as stiff as a plank in order for you to engage your core muscles.
Some of the benefits of planking are:
- Building strength and endurance in muscle groups such as the neck, shoulders and arms.
- Stabilizing the alignment of your spine which is important for the development of your core muscles.
- Building mental endurance and combating anxiety. Holding these poses call for short and intense bursts of discipline and focus.
Here are a set of exercises that you don’t necessarily just have to practice at the gym or in some organized exercise environment, but that you can try from your living room with the help of an exercise mat. Pilates is a form of exercise that greatly benefits core muscles, strength and development.
Benefits of Pilates for core strength:
One of the key ways in which Pilates works for core strength is that it allows the various muscle groups in the body to stretch and elongate. An elongated muscle is infinitely more effective in being able to support the body as it becomes more supple and is able to sustain movements over longer periods of time.
Work out with a Hula Hoop
Hooray! Who would have ever thought that something that we found so fun and enjoyable in our childhoods could be so beneficial for our waistlines? Yes, this playful invention that came about in the 1950’s can be used to exercise core muscles.
If in recent times you’ve found Hula Hoops at the gym, you may have come across the ones that have been slightly weighted for body conditioning. You can however, make use of non-weighted hoops to get you started and accustomed to the balance.
Use a Hula Hoop for core fitness to get the following benefits:
- Improved co-ordination and balance
- Weight loss - If you sustain your activities for more than 10 minutes, it acts as an aerobic exercise.
- Use it for fun, fun, fun!
Check out this fun core training video using Hula Hoops - go on, give it a try!
So maybe you’ve watched the mesmerizing dance moves by Shakira and have secretly envied her sensual moves. Now there’s more reason than ever to shake those hips and belly, in the name of core fitness!
Not only does the dance form offer a lot by way of being dynamic and visually exciting, but it packs a powerful punch when it comes to overall cardio health and belly fitness.
If for no other reason these core benefits should convince you to get your hips swaying…
Belly dancing targets
- Small muscle concentration - A fuller range of smaller muscles are engaged and exercised through belly dance.
- There is a greater range of simultaneous movement - Many belly dance moves require you to move and engage more than one muscle at a time. For example, moving your arms and shoulders simultaneously with the hips and belly.
- Helps women strengthen pelvic floor muscles, stomach, back and waist with the lowest impact possible
Just to give you an idea of how you can use belly dance in order to develop core fitness, have a look at this video that addresses principles of breathing techniques, targeting lower abs and various abdominal muscles along with dance to strengthen the core.
With a little will power, determination and the number of options available out there, a tighter more balanced and stable core should be yours for the taking. Enjoy your journey to the core!