There’s so much more to working your core than developing rock-hard abs (although those don’t hurt, either!). Building a strong, powerful core can help make your entire body strong, and the benefits range from more voltage in the gym to better movement outside of it.
Why should you do core power exercises?
Your core is a group of muscles in your trunk including your abdominal wall, pelvic floor, back muscles, and diaphragm. Because your core is so central in your body, it’s involved in nearly every movement that you do. Whenever you lift something, twist around, or even just stand there, your core muscles are working hard to keep you stabilized and balanced.
This also means that a strong core has plenty of benefits no matter who you are. Benefits of exercising your core include:
Minimizing back pain
Lower back pain is a major complaint among people who have to sit often, especially if your work involves a desk. Working on your core helps build those back muscles so that you can better support your spine.
Another related benefit of strengthening your core is that those more-powerful muscles can better assist you in sitting and standing straighter. Not only is this good for your back, but it is also proven to be really good for your self-esteem!
Decreasing risk of injury
Having a strong, stable center of gravity can also reduce pressure and strain on other parts of your body. Your knees and back are particularly prone to injuries both while working out and while performing everyday tasks, and both can benefit from regular core training.
Improves your overall physical fitness
A weak core can really limit how strong the rest of your body is. For example, if you only use weight machines at the gym that isolate your arm and leg muscles but don’t also pay attention to your core muscles, you won’t be able to generate as much force as you would if you also worked on strengthening your core.
Working hard for a six-pack? You’ll need strong and defined core muscles for that, too.
Performing core power exercises can help you improve your stability, strengthen those important central muscles that are so important for every other workout you do, and get a good burn in the process!
What should you know before working out your core?
When doing core power exercises, the right form is key. If you don’t focus on your core and perform your exercises with incorrect form, you could be putting yourself at higher risk for strains, pain, and injury.
One example is performing crunches and other movements where you’re lying down without making sure your abdominals are engaged to avoid engaging the wrong muscles, which trigger injury or pain.
Similarly, straining your neck rather than your core while sitting up from a crunch can hurt your neck and shoulder. If you’re just starting out on your workout journey, make sure that you consult with a physician or work with a professional trainer or workout studio.
It’s also important to note that doing core power workouts on their own isn’t always going to give you those six-pack abs. Everyone has abdominal muscles, but they may be hidden under a layer of fat. If your goal for incorporating core power exercises is to develop a flat, defined stomach, you should also be incorporating cardiovascular training.
Focus on your mind-muscle connection. Moving with controlled speed, rather than rushing through your workout, means that your core has to work harder to keep you stabilized.This can pay off big-time for your core strength later.
Core Power Exercises To Add To Your Workout
Many core power moves are bodyweight workouts that require minimal equipment. Just grab a fitness mat and get ready to build a stronger, more defined core! These workouts can be done in isolation for focused core work, but to really feel the burn and work up a sweat, cycle through them all for 5-15 reps and repeat three times.
Remember, good form is everything for these bodyweight workouts. Make sure to take it slow until you perfect your form and really focus on your core muscles to get the most out of them.
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A bridge is a great core exercise for beginners and pros alike. Start by lying flat on your back with your feet on the ground and your arms straight to your sides with palms down. Push your feet into the ground while lifting your groin, keeping your shoulders on the ground until your core and upper thighs make a straight line. Return slowly to the starting position, keeping your abdominal and glute muscles tight and engaged for the best core workout.
Low Plank Hold
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A low plank is another simple but highly effective core power workout. Start on your knees, then lean forward and place your elbows directly beneath your shoulders and your forearms flat on the ground. Extend each leg straight out so that you are on your toes and hold this position for as long as you can, making sure to keep the line of your body as straight as possible.
Mountain climbers can get your entire core fired up, while also working your shoulders and arms (and torching plenty of calories in the process). Start in a high plank with your hands and toes on the ground. One at a time, drive a knee forward towards your chest and switch off, going as fast as you comfortably can. You can also add a twist by driving your knees toward the opposite elbow for more oblique work.
This plank variation can be challenging, but it’s a great way to do focused work on your oblique muscles for a strong overall core. Start by lying on your side with your elbow propping you up beneath your shoulder. Use your core muscles to lift your knees and hips off of the floor and hold the pose for a couple of seconds, then slowly lower your hips back to the ground.
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Here’s yet another plank variation! Start with your hands and feet on the ground in a high plank. Carefully twist your body to the side, using your core muscles to balance. You’ll end with one arm still on the ground supporting you and the other arm straight up in the air. Return with control to the original plank position and repeat on the other side for one rep.
High Boat Pose
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This yoga pose works your entire core really well by forcing you to remain balanced and in control. Start in a sitting position with your feet on the ground. Slowly lean backward while extending your legs out at the same time as straight as they can go. Use your abdominal muscles to stay balanced. When you master the high boat, you can then up the ante by slowly moving into a low boat pose, lowering your shoulders and legs until they almost (but not quite) reach the floor. Then use your core to pull yourself back to high boat, and repeat.
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There’s no ab workout quite as simple and effective as the classic crunch to isolate your abdominals. Lay down with your back flush to the ground and your feet on the ground. Support your head by making a “cradle” with your hands, then use your core muscles to crunch up. Make sure to really focus on your core muscles and have them do most of the work rather than straining or pulling at your neck.
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You might think of deadlifts as a lower body workout, but compound movements that force stability and require movement from multiple muscle groups are great exercises for working your core as well. Stand and shift your weight to one leg, then slowly bend forward at the hips to reach towards the ground while lifting your other leg up behind you. Return with control to the start, and repeat the movement using the other leg. You can also add weights to this exercise for even more core and leg strengthening.
Training your core is an effective way to round out your workout routine, but it’s also important for everyday tasks like lifting, bending, and staying balanced while on your feet. Include some core-focused power moves into your workout routine at least once a week to build a strong, powerful core that can handle everything life throws your way.
Featured image credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels