When most of us think abs or even core, our thoughts usually turn pretty quickly to the elusive six-pack; but that’s only part of the story. Your core is essentially the trunk of your body and includes your back, spine and abs. Although flat abs are sexy, a strong core is essential. You engage your core for virtually every activity you do. Strengthening your core improves stability and athletic performance. A weak core contributes to injuries not just from athletics but from everyday activities as well. For example, you are more likely to injure your joints or your back, or even to fall when your core isn’t strong.
Even with all the benefits of strengthening your core, you may be still wondering about that six-pack. After all, swimsuit season is upon us. No worries, you can focus on both. When you are ready to whittle your middle the good news is you don’t have to spend endless hours doing crunches. Here are some ways to let a little air out of your spare tire without breaking your back.
For starters, take a good look at your posture, diet and exercise habits. All of these contribute to that lean look you want and can make the difference between muffin top and smokin’ hot. Let’s take a look at each.
Remember parents and teachers nagging you not to slouch? Turns out they were giving you pretty good advice. Standing up straight with your knees, hips and shoulders aligned engages your core and even makes your stomach seem a bit slimmer.
When your goal is to strengthen your abs and core, avoid falling into the trap of spot reducing. You are more likely to be successful if you pair your abs workout with a cardio program. Consider running, yoga, Pilates, cycling and swimming to improve your overall fitness and trim your tummy. If you choose crunches when working on your abs, be sure you are using the correct form to avoid back injuries. Mix up your routine with some squats, bridges and planks – all work your core.
Finally, you have to consider diet. Particularly if you eat a lot of fatty foods your efforts to uncover the slimmer you will be slowed or stalled. As you already know the key to a healthy weight is plenty of fruits and vegetables. You should consume other foods (and alcohol) in moderation. A tip for healthy eaters: beware of gas producing foods that contribute to bloating, i.e. a fat stomach. These include broccoli, beans and cabbage. Eating slowly, rather than gulping your food down, and avoiding drink straws can reduce bloating, too.
A strong core is important at any life stage. Long after concerns about swimsuit season fade core strength will still count as a strategy for managing overall quality of life. Keep your body strong and preserve your ability to reach, bend and stay balanced by including core strengthening in your fitness routine.