Build a stronger and more stable core in 2016
Michelle Roots, BA Kin, CSCS, PES, PN1
Fitness depends on a strong core. Learn which muscles make up your core and the benefits of strengthening these muscles. Then try our basic workout routine to help you achieve a strong core in 2016.
If you suffered from low back, neck, or joint pain in 2015, you might want to get to the core of the problem by setting a goal to build a stronger and more stable core for 2016. Working on your core can have wonderful benefits, including more efficient workouts and reduced risk of injury during exercise and daily tasks.
Your core includes not only the “six-pack” muscles, more technically known as the rectus abdominis, but also the other muscles of the pelvis, lower back, hips, and abdomen.
Consider your core muscles the central link between your upper body and lower body; they act to stabilize, produce force, and protect the body during actions as intense as kicking a soccer ball or as simple as vacuuming the house. The core has to be strong and stable, but also flexible, in order to allow the body to move through all planes of motion comfortably and safely.
Core training exercises target not just the abs, but also the back side of the body (posterior chain) such as the muscles of the lower back (erector spinae) and gluteal muscles. Core training exercises mimic real-life activities, forcing all the muscles of the core to work together to stabilize the body, much like real-life actions.
This basic core training workout can be done on your living room floor. Perform one set of each exercise before moving on to the next. Once you have completed one set of each exercise, return to the beginning and repeat for two to three rounds.
Make this exercise harder by raising both legs at the same time!
If this version of the plank is too hard, begin by removing the straight leg raise and just holding the plank position for 20 seconds with proper form. If holding a plank is too difficult off your elbows and toes, try dropping to your knees and hold the plank off your elbows and knees instead of toes. If you begin to experience low back pain during this exercise, stop immediately.
You will feel your body want to tilt to the opposite side, but do not let that happen. Squeeze your glutes and abdominals and only abduct your hip until you feel a compensation about to occur.
Here are a few quick changes you can make to turn 2016 into your healthiest year ever.
Add exercise into your daily routine with the goal to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, making sure each session is at least 10 minutes in length.
Incorporate more whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains into your diet and avoid processed foods, sugary snack bars and beverages, and refined white flour.
Limit alcohol, which is very high in calories and has no nutritional value. Try to replace soda and fruit juice with water or fruit-infused water to keep your body hydrated and functioning properly.
Decrease intake of refined sugar (read nutrition labels carefully) and replace artificial sweeteners with natural options such as organic stevia.
Try eating from a smaller plate, eat slowly so your body has a chance to digest your food, and stop eating when you are full. Eat smaller portions every three to four hours to keep your metabolism amped up.
There are many different ways to test your core strength; try these two basic exercises to determine where you stand.