What is the Core?

The dictionary meaning of the Core is – The most essential part of anything.

Similarly, a strong core is essential in the human body, and the importance of core strength can not be undermined.

In a body, the Core is defined as a set of muscles, the main constituents of which are

  • Transverse Abdominis-Deepest ab muscles
  • Diaphragm-Muscles which assist in breathing
  • Multifidus-Back muscles along the spine
  • Pelvic floor – Helps prevent urine flow
  • Internal & External Obliques

For a layman, the Core includes

  • Muscles that stabilize the hips
  • Set of muscles that make up the torso-the front, sides, and back of the body
  • Muscles that stabilize the shoulders

Why is core strength necessary?

What is core strength necessary for in your body? For lifelong participation in physical activity? It is the most important muscle group in your body for any physical activity. A strong core muscle group supports your entire body. 

They connect the upper part of your body with the lower and help transfer forces from one to another. These are very crucial to any movement in your body. All physical activity depends on solid and stable core muscles, whether swinging or picking, stretching or bending. So you do need a strong core muscle group for all.

One of the best things you can do is strengthen your core muscles as far as the fitness of your body is concerned. There are tons of ways to work on building a solid core. Strong core muscles include your abs, obliques, and lower back muscles as well.

There are various forms of core exercises to strengthen all these. However, the best core exercises are those that work on more than one part of your abdominal muscles.

Benefits of Strengthening the Core

Physical Activity

Normal Day-to-day activities are done quickly and without any extra pressure on any muscle group. Your strong core muscles play a vital role in running also. All the bending and twisting associated with housework will be possible only with a strong core.

Strong Lower Back

It makes it easier to pick up, stretch or twist without any injury. You can even sit, get up and walk faster with a more muscular lower back.

Sports activities

You can perform sports activities with ease. Your standing, walking, running, every physical activity is dependent on your Core. Your endurance, stamina, and speed all increase with its strength. Runners who concentrate on a solid core end up increasing their running speed.

Good posture

You can not undermine the importance of your core strength in improving your posture. Your whole personality depends on your posture, which in turn is dependent on your core muscles. 

If the Core isn’t strong, you will not be able to stand for long and keep shifting your pressure from one leg to the other while standing. Similarly, while sitting too, you will keep changing your sitting position. Not only that, this will put pressure on different muscle groups, leading to injuries, wrong sitting or standing posture, and resulting in tiredness and fatigue.

Body Stability

Your body stability is in your core muscles, which in turn saves you from falls and hits while walking and running, significantly when growing old. It keeps the body stable and balanced and gives you a better posture and a more robust backbone. It is the center of all your movement.

Better Fitness

A strong core results in better control over other muscle groups and better balance in the body on all muscles, leading to better fitness. Also, a weak heart can injure the spine and lead to injuries in the shoulders, hips, or knees. In addition, weak core muscles can lead to injuries, more fatigue, less endurance, immobility, lower back pain, and poor posture.

What are the best home core exercises?

One does not even need any gym equipment for core exercises. You can do bodyweight exercises at home that are amazing at strengthening all of these important muscles in your midsection.

Even when you do core exercises that recruit more of one muscle than the others, you’ll notice that you still have to engage your entire midsection to do them right, which is proof that these muscles are never working completely alone.

Anything that’s balance-related is working on core stabilization. Moves that isolate one side at a time, throwing off your center of gravity, work your Core because you need to brace your midsection to avoid toppling over. Core stabilization requires strength.

Other types of unexpected movements that engage your Core include: jumping because your body has to brace itself against the impact when you land, anything that’s done in a plank position, and compound exercises like squats that engage multiple muscle groups at once.

As you get older, your core strength becomes even more critical to stopping pain and maintaining your performance, not just in sports and activities you love but also in every area of your life.

Caution:

  1. Before you do any of these core exercises, make sure you have done your warm-up correctly.
  2. If you feel the tension in your lower back during any of these exercises, stop and reset, making sure your abs are engaged and that your back is not arched. You can also try starting with fewer reps.
  3. If you still feel discomfort, skip that exercise and try a different one. 

Plank is a core workout to strengthen your Abs

  • They improve your posture.
  • Help get rid of back pain.
  • Your movements are better coordinated.
  • Improve your body flexibility
  • They help improve your metabolism.

Plank variations:

Forward Planks

Place your hands under your shoulders, approximately shoulder-width apart. Press your body up with the toes and balls of your feet on the mat and support your weight. Plank for 15 to 30 seconds initially and increase gradually over some time.

Side planks

Lie down on your side with your legs straight. Raise yourself on your right forearm, keeping the body straight – like a diagonal line going from your head to feet. It will help if you elevate your hips and knees off the ground. Rest your left hand on the mat if you need to stabilize yourself.

Reverse planks

Sit with your legs straight with your hands on the mat below your shoulders, pushing your body upwards. Ensure your body maintains a straight line.

There are various other extensions of these planks.

Leg Lowering

Lie on the mat on your back and raise your legs perpendicular to the floor. Slowly lower one leg while keeping the other one perpendicular. Get it close to the mat without touching it. Return it to its position and slowly lower the other leg. Both legs should be straight.

Bridges

Lie on your back on the mat with hands at your sides. Bring your feet up near your butt. Press your hips up till your body weight is balanced between your hips and upper back. Perform bridges in repetitions first and then hold a stationary position.

Bird Dogs

Kneel with your hands positioned under your shoulders. Slowly raise and lower one hand and the opposite leg, then bring them back to your starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.

Crunches

Lie on your back and bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head without interlacing your fingers and pull your abdominals inwards. Lift your head, neck, and shoulder blades off the floor. Hold for a few seconds and then go back down.

Reverse Crunches:

Lie flat and keep your hands behind your head. Bring your knees inwards, creating a 90-degree angle. Start pulling your legs towards your chest. Now crunch your abs. Hold for a few seconds and then go back to the original position.

Crunch Twist:

Keep your knees flat and bend them. Bring your elbow near the opposite knee the moment you are about to do your first crunch. Hold for a few seconds, and then go back to your normal position. Try to alternate between the left and right sides.

Bicycle Crunch:

Lie on the mat and keeping your back against the ground, lift one leg and bend it towards the stomach. Replace the leg that is parallel to the floor and perform a bicycle-like motion movement. One rep is only counted when both your left and right leg have come up to your stomach.

Long Arm Crunch:

Lie down and keep your knees bent. Place your hands behind your head and interlace your fingers. Lift the upper part of your body along with your hands and hold it for about two seconds. Go back slowly to the initial position.

There are various core exercises, of which I have mentioned only a few here. However, you can start with these and later on add their variations to your daily routine. The best way is to do each of these core exercises for 30 seconds and rest for 10 seconds.

Start with a single round of all workouts and keep increasing as you get used to exercises. Subsequently, increase the time for each to 45 seconds and the number of repetitions to three. But do not go by the book in this case. 

You have to be careful while attempting any new exercise and consider your body first. If there are any pains in the body, please take advice from a doctor. 

In building up body strength, the importance of the Core can not be overemphasized. But consistency in the effort is equally important. Unless one is consistent, the results are difficult to come.