Develop a strong core for more than the six-pack abs that will hopefully peak through. Use core conditioning to improve your overall athletic performance and life—the flat abs are just a bonus.
“Core conditioning improves posture, which contributes to a trimmer appearance. Moreover, developing core muscle strength can boost the effectiveness of workouts and reduce the risk of injuries that sideline our efforts to stay in shape,” according to Harvard.Health.edu. A strong core also contributes to better balance, flexibility and cardio performance, and helps you do basic tasks like lifting heavy objects. Here’s what you need to know about core conditioning and your workout routine.
Learn the Core
The core consists of muscles in your lower back, pelvis and abdomen, all of which work together. To better understand core conditioning, you have to know what the muscles are that you’re targeting. Here are the four most common ones:
- Rectus abdominis: This muscle provides the “six-pack” look.
- External obliques: These muscles run down the side and front of your abdomen. You target these with exercises like the Russian twist.
- Internal obliques: These lie beneath your external obliques and run in the opposite directions as them.
- Transverse abdominis: This is the deepest abdominal muscle, and protects your spine.
Core conditioning is focused on training all of these muscles, and more. Unfortunately, traditional ab exercises like crunches and sit-ups don’t target every muscle. Here are a few exercises that will.
Plank: Any variation of this common exercise targets all the muscles in your core. Incorporate it regularly into your workout. Try side planks, plank up downs or plank taps.
Shoulder presses on a bosu ball: Standing on a bosu ball forces you to engage your entire core for stability as you lift your arms up over your head.
Arm and leg raise on ball: Working out on a yoga ball requires the same core stabilization as working out on a bosu ball. Lie on your stomach, and reach one arm and one leg (on opposite sides) out and return to start. Repeat for 10 times on each side.
Leg raise: This exercise works your hip flexors, pelvic muscles and full abdomen. Hang from a pull up bar and raise your legs or bring your knees up to your chest.
V hold: Your entire core has to engage to stay in a 90 degree V position. Hold for 30 seconds, or as long as you can; if you start shaking, don’t worry—this means your engaging lesser-used muscles.