Core refers to the muscle groups located in the abdominal area and mid and lower back areas of the body. It is classified into two types — (1) the stabilizers, which include the pelvic floor muscles, lumbar multifidus, transverse abdominis, diaphragm, internal obliques, and transversospinalis, and (2) the movers, which include the hamstrings, erector spinae, rectus abdominis, hip abductors, hip adductors, external obliques, and latissimus dorsi.
Because the core is the body’s stabilizer, it must be kept strong and healthy. Having a strong core has a ton of benefits. It can:
- Strengthen your midsection
- Improve core stability
- Boost neuromuscular control and efficiency for optimal movement
- Help keep the spine, pelvis, and ribs aligned
- Promotes efficient and effective muscle coordination
- Help in the proper distribution of your body weight
- Aid in the absorption and transfer of body force
- Enhance respiratory and circulatory functions
- Lower your risk of injuries
- Flatten your stomach or help get you a six-pack
What workout regimen is best to strengthen the core? Do you need to have gym equipment?
Planks work your core, abs, and back hard, improving not only your core strength but also endurance. Moreover, they can help build other muscle groups in your body, such as the hamstrings and the glutes, and help you have better posture and a better sense of balance. They make good use of your body weight, no need for any gym equipment, so they can be done anywhere.
To do a plank, lie face down on the floor, with your forearms resting on the floor and your elbows supporting your weight. Your legs should be extended straight out behind you, with your toes resting on the floor. Make sure that your whole body — from your shoulders to your heels — forms a straight line. While in that position, squeeze your abs, glutes, quads, and the rest of your core, without moving your hips or butt. Hold that position for as long as you can.
Jackknife is a complete core workout that utilizes every single muscle group in your core. If you regularly do it, you can stabilize your core muscles and have better strength, endurance, stamina, and flexibility. You can also work your heart and lungs hard, improving blood circulation and other vital functions.
To do a jackknife, lie face-up on the floor, extending your arms overhead and your legs on the floor. Try to keep your arms close to your ears and your legs together. Squeeze your abdominal muscles to push your lower back down into the floor. Then, using your thighs and glutes, simultaneously raise legs and lift your upper back off the floor to get your hands forward to reach your feet, making your body form a V shape. Go back to starting position. Repeat.
Leg raises focus on the lower abdominal and lower back muscles. They also can stretch your hip flexors, improving the strength and stability of your core, and your posture. If done regularly, they can boost hip mobility and lower your risk of hip pains and other issues as you age.
To do a leg raise, lie face up, with your hands resting at your sides and your legs extended on the floor. Using your thigh muscles, abs, and lower back muscles, slowly lift your legs, making sure that they are kept straight and together. Once your legs form a right angle with the floor, hold that position for 2 to 3 seconds. Then, get your legs back down but not touching the floor. Repeat.
Hip dips are great for strengthening the muscles on the sides of the back and the abdomen, which are muscle groups that play key roles in core support and stability. They are highly recommended for beginners, as they are easy to do — only need your body weight — and can be done at home, the gym, or anywhere you prefer.
To do a hip dip, get into a planking position, i.e. lie face down with your forearms resting on the floor and your elbows supporting your body, your legs extended straight out behind you with your toes resting on the floor, and your whole body forming a straight line. Then, engage your abs, lower back, butt, and quads. Twist your hips to the left side, tapping the floor, and then to the right side, tapping the floor again. Repeat, alternating between left and right.
The side bend works not only the abs, lower back muscles, and obliques, but also the shoulders, arms, forearms, glutes, and hamstrings. It can help enhance core stability and strength for better posture and balance too. As it does not require any type of special workout equipment, you can do it whenever and wherever you please.
To do a side bend, get into a side plank position, placing your right hand on the floor and your right arm supporting your body up. Extend both of your legs out on your left side, placing your left foot over your right foot. Squeeze your abs and butt, and then slowly dip your hips down toward the floor and then lift your hips back up. Repeat about eight times before switching onto the other side.
The dead bug is a great abdominal exercise that works the deep core muscles, helping increase strength, endurance, and stability. It is also good for the thighs, and arm and leg muscles, and can raise your heart rate.
To do a dead bug, lie face up, with both of your arms raised overhead and both of your legs doing a tabletop position (i.e. knees are bent 90 degrees and hovering over your hips). Then, extend your right leg straight first, as you drop your left arm over your head, making sure that neither touches the ground. Remember to utilize your abdominal, lower back, and butt muscles as you do these movements. Go back to starting position, and then repeat using your left leg and right arm.