Tips for Getting Started Improving Core Strength for Functional Movement
To enjoy a healthy and active life using your core to support the body and develop effective functional movement habits is essential to help reduce back problems, improve body mechanics, increase strength, mobility and support.
Whether your goal is to enhance sports performance, or just enjoy an adequate amount of fitness for a happy life, learning to find and use your core muscles and incorporate core training exercises into your workouts can help ensure great whole-body health.
"Abdominal Training" is essential to improve posture. Better core support, helps reduce the risk of injury and frees up our hips and shoulders for better functional movement habits. Contrary to what many people believe, using the arms to crank the head and shoulders up off the ground for a sit-up isn't the most effective way to improve core strength. With this “cheating” habit, the arms are doing more work than the Abs! And if the arms aren’t trying to do all the work… the legs try to do it! The front of the thighs might grip, the pelvis will tuck, Glutes squeezed tight – all of which jams the hips closer to the ribcage and makes it more difficult to actually use the right parts of the abs to support the length of the torso and achieve true Core Strength.
Functional Fitness Starts with a Strong & Healthy Core
The Muscles That MAKE Our Core
Imagine your Core like a box. The foundation of the Core is the Pelvic Floor. The top of the Core is the Diaphragm. In the front it’s the Transverse Abs, Internal & External Obliques, and Rectus Abdominis. In the back it’s the Erector Spinae muscles, and Multifidus.
Every one of these muscle groups needs to be properly trained to effectively strengthen your Core. Not only are we strengthening the abs, but proper core training will also help train the right support to stabilize the spine. The end result, the development of a fit, strong, stable, freely mobile spine that makes it easy to support the body and move in any direction. A thousand crunches, (OK, a little exaggeration…) but if you’re only doing crunches to “strengthen your Abs”….you’re probably putting more strain on your back than helping improve core health and fitness. With crunches alone you may not be utilizing all the parts of the core that need to be developed. There’s a chance you may not even realize that some of these muscles exist, much less have the capability to fire them at will!
There’s More to Core Training than Just Abdominal Work!
The Abs are only a portion of the equation! The crunching/curling (action of the Rectus Abdominis) isn't the most effective action to get the most from our Core. In fact, the Rectus should probably be the last muscle group to be worked since this is the least relevant to really improving Core strength! If everyone spent less time doing “crunches” and more time training ALL the true Core muscles during every workout - there'd be a lot more strong, healthy bodies, and a lot fewer back problems.
Which Muscles Need to Be Worked To Improve Core Strength?
Exercises for ALL of the Core Muscles should be incorporated into your strength training workouts. Use of these muscles should be practiced every day to strengthen maintaining proper core support for sport, recreation, and daily life activities.
• Pelvic Floor
• Transverse Abs
• Internal & External Obliques
• Rectus Abdominis
• Erector Spinae
Each muscle group can be focused on individually, and most exercises you do will require a combination of multiple Core muscles engaging together to provide and maintain appropriate support to keep you safe and injury-free.
If you’re uncertain where some of these muscles are, or how to feel them contract, it’s a logical assumption that you might not be optimizing your Core training efforts during your workouts, and probably not using enough good Core support throughout the day. YET…
Guess what…? It’s Never Too Late To Improve YOUR Core Support!
Awareness about where your Core muscles are, how to utilize them, and then taking steps to begin integrating more of the right Core training exercises into your workouts will help you to strengthen your core, improve posture and body support, stay safe, avoid chronic pain, and nagging injuries.
Begin taking positive steps to increase Core support. Incorporate exercises into your workouts that use ALL off the Core muscles. Find your Core and discover how much it helps increase strength, power, and control to improve fitness and enjoy great whole-body health.
Pilates exercises are a fantastic way to improve Core strength and whole-body health. Find a Pilates teacher in your local area and take some private training sessions or group classes to really help fine-tune your core training technique, and find the right muscles!
If you’re looking for an easy-to-follow Pilates Audio Mat class for your I pad, phone, or computer. Download the Centerworks® Pilates Audio Mat Workouts for a fun & challenging Pilates Mat class you can do anywhere!
Aliesa George is the founder of Centerworks® Pilates. She is an author, workshop presenter, and mind-body health expert with more than 25 years of experience designing solutions for health improvement. Aliesa has created a wide variety of products focused on Pilates, Foot Fitness, the Mind-Body Connection, Stress-Management, and Whole-Body Health. She enjoys helping others discover the connection between thought and action to get positive results and achieve goals for a healthy mind, body and spirit!