Lunges and splits for glutes and legs? Check. Heavy barbells for strong arms and shoulders? Check. A minute-long plank? Fail. If you crumble every time you attempt a plank, find yourself slumped over the desk far too often, or have a posture any cartoon villain would be proud of, your core muscles are slacking! Thus, you have to pay extra attention to those empowering core workouts for your next training session. Otherwise, you won’t even be able to get up.
The core is something that matters way more than most people know. These are the essential muscles for our daily lives. You cannot do a single thing without engaging it. It may not be as visible as your triceps, but it should be twice as hard. Maintaining a strong core is necessary not only for athletes or bodybuilders but for every person!
Core muscles move and stabilize our spine. Upon the first look, you may think of abs, the most prominent part of our core system. Okay, then crunches should work, right? Not exactly; the core is more than abs. It is an encompassing group of muscles that surround our abdominal region.
Muscles of the abdominal wall
Let’s start with this group of core muscles as they are the easiest to inspect that see the core fitness results. They include
- pectorals major
- external and internal abdominal oblique
- rectus abdominis
- transverse abdominis
- tendinous inscriptions
Erector spinae muscles
This muscle group is located on the back. They are responsible for straightening and rotation of the spine. Include three main groups
Pelvic floor muscles and the diaphragm
These muscles span the bottom of the pelvis. They and the diaphragm are the major part of our core system.
A Strong Core Benefits
The core functions of our core muscles are numerous and diverse. They align your spine, ribs, and pelvis in order to resist a specific force. Such functions can be static and dynamic.
Let’s start with the basic static function of core muscles – keeping our posture. As the muscles align the central part of a body and control it rotationally and straightening, stronger core muscles mean better posture and actually standing taller. Which, in its turn, keeps the internal organ healthier by maintaining the optimal balance.
Aside from improved posture and balance, training your core improves your general health and comes with many advantages.
Alleviates Back Pain
A strong core’s true power is not in a slim waist or defined abs; it’s in the medical benefits. Numerous studies show the positive effects of core training on lower back pain. The participants report a significant decrease in pain as well as the higher effectiveness of core physical therapy.
Improves Sports Performance
Core training improves the general strength of our bodies. Deep core muscles participate in all active sports to stabilize our movement. Thus, they make us stronger, prevent any possible injuries, or “soften the blow” if they occur.
Besides, a stronger core increases muscle training’s effectiveness by providing the proper posture, generating more force, and protecting your back.
For a 30 minute core workout, follow these exercises in a few rounds several times a week.
The Holy Grail of core workouts is the famous plank. This is arguably the most effective core exercise that engages all the major muscles and quickly tones them. This is a versatile move that can be effectively practiced by beginners and pros alike. It builds strength, stability, and endurance with the minimal movement you can find in all the variety of workouts.
As a newbie, start with the simple forearm plank; as you progress, you will increase your time in this pose and bring in other variations to complicate the task.
Let’s start with the basics.
How to do:
- Low on all fours in a pushup position
- Rest your forearms on the floor directly below the shoulders, hands extended forward.
- Straighten legs, toes on the floor.
- Keep your body a straight line and hold for 30-60 seconds (increase the time as you progress)
Notes: To help with the balances, you can clasp your hands together in front of you. Also, be sure to engage all the core muscles, glutes, and quads to avoid injuries. Remember: keep the butt from raising up and lower back straight. For that, tuck the butt a bit towards your navel – suitable for most core exercises for women.
This exercise brings up the plank to a higher level. While the previous pose is static, Spiderman is the perfect combination of holding a pose while adding movement.
How to do:
- Start from the plank position.
- Bring your left knee to the left elbow while keeping your body as straight as possible.
- Repeat with the right knee to elbow.
- Complete around 10-15 cycles.
This core exercise with a funny name is beginner-friendly but requires much effort to keep the technique right. After several sessions, you’ll not only strengthen your core but also get better control over your muscles.
How to do:
- Lie on your back
- Lift your feet to form two 90* angles at hips and knees.
- Lift your arms up.
- Straighten one leg while lowering it to about an inch above the floor and lower the opposite arm parallel the floor.
- Return to the initial position and repeat with the other leg.
Note: while lowering a leg, be sure to prevent your lower back from arching, keep straight and pushed to the floor.
High Boat to Low Boat
This is one of the best core workouts for men and women that engages all your core muscles and a few other groups. It is perfect for intermediate difficulty but can be practiced by beginners for a bit of extra “umpf.”
How to do:
- Begin sitting with your legs bent
- Lean your torso backboard and lower a bit while stretching your legs forward and slightly lower. Keep your arms straight in front of you for better balance.
- Return to the initial position but keep your feet bent and off the floor.
Note: During your flexes, neither shoulders nor feet touch the floor at any time.
The Russian twist is an easy core exercise that practices rotational movement.
How to do:
- Sit with knees bent, feet off the floor, and arm extended.
- Lean back slightly to engage core better.
- Rotate your torso from side to side while keeping your legs still.
- Continue for 30 seconds.
Note: you can also take barbells or something heavy in hand to heighten the difficulty.
Though the simple leg raise exercises also improve your core muscles, we suggest windshields as a more appropriate choice to engage core muscles in the best core workouts.
How to do:
- Lie on your back.
- Lift legs straight up and spread hands to the sides.
- Lower both of your legs to the side a few inches above the floor (keep them straight).
- Return them straight up and rotate to the other side.
- Repeat 15 times for each side.
Such a rollout can be performed either with a wide barbell or a special ab wheel.
How to do:
- Lower to your knees. Take a barbell or a wheel and position it in front.
- Keep your back straight and begin to roll out forward. Keep your core strong. Go as far as you can before rolling back.
- Repeat 15 times.