Core stabilization is an important concept to understand when thinking about your health and fitness routine. Quite frequently, people assume that “working the core” means doing more sit-ups for abdominal strengthening. This is actually not the case at all. By only emphasizing the rectus abdominus and hip flexors, you are actually causing a destabilization or imbalance of your core. Core strengthening is crucial for proper posture and also for power during heavy work or athletic activities.
Because most of us sit the majority of the time commuting to work, sitting behind a desk all day and sitting on the couch to watch out favorite shows, the hip flexors are typically very tight to begin with. When you do full sit-ups in your exercise routine, the hip flexors engage when lifting your upper body beyond the shoulder blades, off the floor. This creates a situation of strengthening a muscle that is already tight. As the hip flexor tightness increases, the pelvic alignment changes and thereby increasing pressure in the low back. You can see why and how destabilization and imbalance can occur.
Core strength is about strengthening all of the abdominal muscles, the obliques, the gluteals, the spinal extensors and deep rotators. It is creating balanced strength in the front, sides and back. So what are some other ways to strengthen the core besides just those traditional sit-ups? Here are three basic exercises that work the core safely and effectively:
Plank– There are a few type of planks that are very effective at building core strength: Kneeling plank, forearm plank and full plank. Remember to keep the spine in neutral alignment and not let the belly sag. Fingers should be spread wide and gluteals engaged. Keep breathing and hold as long as you can in maintain proper form or 10-60 seconds.
Superman-While lying on the floor, engage the abdominal muscles first, squeeze the gluteals and lift the arms, feet or a combonation of the two off the floor. Keep contracting the abs to protect the spine while your back goes into extension. Keep breathing and hold as long as you can without pain or 10-30 seconds. Return to lying flat on the floor to rest then sit back into a child’s pose where your buttocks moves towards your heels. This flexes the spine to balance out the extension.
Triangle-Standing with feet wider than your shoulders, turn left foot facing out. Extend arms to a “T” position. Hinge to the left from the hips, lengthen through your spine and let you arms go to the 6 and 12 o’clock positions. Squeeze the right gluteals to keep the upper and lower body in alignment and not rotated toward the floor. Keep lengthening through the spine to avoid collapsing your weight unto your shin. Continue breathing and hold as long as you can painfree and in proper form or 10-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Of course there are many exercises tor core strengthening, but knowing the basics is important. If you have questions about these exercises, feel free to contact me. Your health and wellness is my passion and priority.