…but, what is it?
Engage your core…tighten the core muscles…do core exercises…Have you heard any of these expressions and asked yourself, “Okay, but what is my core and how do I work it? Does that mean I need to do more sit-ups?” Many people have been told that they need to work core exercises into their fitness routine, yet, many have no idea what the CORE is! Although there may be many different responses to what your core is, here is a general idea of what muscle groups compose the core and what exercises you can do to work it!
The CORE musculature involves many of the stabilizer muscles throughout the center of your body – the muscle groups from the shoulders down to the hips along the front, back, and the sides. Generally speaking, these muscle groups include the rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus (TVA), internal and external obliques, gluteus muscles, erector spinae, multifidus, hip flexors, and hip adductors. The core musculature is very important to keep healthy and strong because it is our main center of stabilization and support. Improperly trained or strengthened core muscles can result in poor posture, back and neck pain, and possibly injury. How many people do you know who cannot lift their grandchildren or garden because they have back problems? Many times the back issues stem from weak core muscles. Training our core muscles can not only help prevent those problems, but can help alleviate those problems as well!
The best news is…you can do CORE exercises in your own home or office! No fancy gym equipment needed! Dedicating 5 – 15 minutes a day for a simple core routine will improve your posture and help prevent future injury.
To engage your core, place your pointer and middle fingers of one hand on your belly button. Cough or say, “HA!” During this exercise you should feel a tightening around your stomach, sides, and back. The tightening or activation of your core simulates wearing a support girdle for your spine! During the following exercises, utilize this method to know you are “engaging” your core.
SIMPLE CORE EXERCISES
– CORE ACTIVATION – While you are sitting in your work chair, or watching TV at home, sit up tall (chest up, shoulders back, core engaged). Try to hold this posture as long as possible when working or sitting at a desk. To give yourself a challenge, stand upright with your core engaged and arms out to the side. Lift one knee while maintaining good posture. Do not let your body sway or tilt. Repeat 10 times on each side.
– POINTERS – From a quadruped position (on your hands and knees on the ground), engage your core and keep your back flat (imagine you are balancing a glass of water on your back). Slowly raise your right arm straight ahead, then slowly raise your left leg straight back. You should be balancing on your left hand and right knee. Try not to spill the water! Slowly return back to starting position and switch sides. Repeat 10 times on each side.
– CRUNCHES – Laying on your back, place your feet under your knees and place your hands behind your head. Keeping your elbows out to the side, raise your head and shoulders off the ground 6-8 inches. Slowly lower back to starting position. Repeat 25 times.
– SINGLE-LEG BALANCE – Standing on your right leg, fold your arms across your chest (or if necessary, hold onto a stationary object) and engage your core. Hold this pose for 30 seconds and then switch. To challenge yourself, add a small single-leg squat motion on the leg you are standing on. Repeat 10 times and switch legs.
These are just a few of the many ways you can WORK YOUR CORE throughout the day! No gym membership or fancy equipment, no problem! Remember, keeping a strong core can help alleviate and prevent many common injuries! Best wishes in continuing your fitness success!
Robin Ishibashi Jones
Robin Ishibashi Jones has been a fitness trainer and strength and conditioning coach for over 10 years. A graduate of Whittier College and owner of Stonebridge HomeFit, Robin is a health and fitness enthusiast who makes training easily accessible to people of all levels.