A strong core goes way beyond washboard abs; it helps to prevent injuries, improve posture, and heal chronic back pain. There are so many reasons to work the abs without doing 100 crunches every single day dreaming of the perfect abs.
For strong abs you want a strong back, so it is important to always work the entire core in order to get the full benefits. Think of your core muscles as the strong link connecting your upper and lower body. It is important to have a sturdy core in order to help your body function optimally for all matters of life – sports, lifting weights, running, cleaning the house and picking up kids. Weak back muscles will not provide a strong stomach, and vice versa, so when you are putting together an ab workout always factor in abs and back.
Benefits of Core Strength
- Better Posture – The way you stand and sit will have a massive impact on how you feel every day. Slouched shoulders and a rounded back will produce major back pain overtime whilst potentially causing issues around the rest of the body, from neck to feet. Too many people are sitting at desks hunched over looking at a computer and possibly sat on a chair that is too low or high with the neck at a wrong angle all day. Working the core will greatly benefit posture. Ideal posture places the least amount of pressure on the back. Think of a piece of string above your head pulling you up!
- Prevent Back Injuries – Strengthening the back and abs will greatly benefit your body by preventing back injuries. A strong core will also help reduce chances of pulling a muscle whilst lifting a weight, bags, boxes or child.
- Better Use of Muscles in Workouts – Once you become aware of the core, you will notice you switch on to using those muscles more easily in workouts. Whether running, lifting weights, doing yoga or cycling, you will tend to tighten those muscles more readily as you have a better connection with the core.
- Six Pack Abs? – If eating a healthy diet that supports fat loss, body composition and health then there’s more chance to see defined muscles around the midsection from all of the ab exercises you have been doing.
- Balance and Stability – The core stabilises your body, allowing you to move in any direction which means more efficient movement and less risk of falling.
- Everyday Life – Cleaning, working, gardening, picking things up, picking children up. All of the bending, twisting, moving, lifting and carrying done in everyday life will be much easier with a stronger healthier core.
7 Core Exercises
- Plank to Downward Dog – Start in a plank position and hold for 5 seconds then push up into the downward dog position and hold for approximately 10 seconds. Don’t rush through each movement so take longer if necessary. Then return back to a plank.
- Downward Dog Split Leg – Begin on all fours on the ground. Take a deep breath, release and push into downward dog by straightening the legs and lifting your hips and butt into the air. Push your hands and feet into the ground and relax the head between your arms. Exhale and lift one leg as high as you can while keeping it straight with a flexed foot. Lower the leg down, and repeat on the other side.
- Flutter Kicks – Start by lying flat on your back on a mat with your arms by your sides and your palms down. Extend your legs fully out with a slight bend in your knees. Lift your heels about 6 inches off the floor. Make small, rapid up and down scissor-like motions with your legs. The key is to focus on having your midsection do all the work and to keep your abs constantly contracted throughout the exercise.
- Russian Twist – Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Hold a weight, such as a dumbbell, kettlebell or medicine ball. Lean back so your torso is at a 45-degree angle to floor, making sure to keep the spine straight and not rounded. Raise your feet off the ground by a couple of inches. Slowly rotate to the right as far as you can, pause then rotate to the left as far as you can. Return back to the centre.
- Bird Dog – Balance on hands and knees. Lift right leg and left arm, extending right leg to the rear and reaching forward with left arm. Hold. Repeat with opposite arm and leg.
- T-Stabilisation – Start in a push up position. Shift your weight onto your left hand, rotate to the right, and raise your right arm toward the ceiling. Your body will be facing the right. Squeeze the abdominals. Return to start and repeat on the other side.
- Dolphin Plank – Begin in downward dog. Shift your weight forward so that your shoulders are over your wrists. One at a time, lower your forearms to the floor with your palms facing down. Place your elbows where your hands were, and spread your fingers wide. You want your body to be in one straight line. Engage your abs by squeezing your belly button toward your spine. Draw your shoulders away from your ears, and look between your hands. Hold for a few breaths. Then come back onto your hands and press back into downward dog.
Example Core Workout
- Start in a downward dog position.
- From there go into the downward dog split leg. Hold for a few breaths then switch to the other leg. Do this 3 times on each side.
- Move into a plank position and perform plank to downward dog. Repeat this 3 times.
- Transition into dolphin plank and hold for a few breaths then push into downward dog to relax the stomach muscles. Repeat this 3 times.
- Lay on the floor on your stomach then move into a push up position. Go into the T-Stabilisation exercise. Hold for a few breaths then return to the start and repeat on the other side. Return to the centre.
- Move to a seated position then lie flat on your back and perform flutter kicks. Perform 10 kicks on each side, so a total of 20 movements.
- Repeat this whole sequence 1 to 3 times.
Which is your favourite ab exercise?