The ‘core’ is an important group of muscles at the centre of your body (imagine a box surrounding the middle of your body). The specific muscles that make up the core are mainly the rectus abdominis (‘abs’), transverse abdominis (the deepest internal core muscle that wraps around your sides and spine), erector spinae (muscles in your lower back), and the internal and external obliques (the muscles on the sides of your abdomen).
It is important to build a strong core for more efficient force distribution which helps to prevent injury, especially to the back. Want to have fun with your core to stimulate new growth, and development in your midsection? Then read The Spider Method: 8 Exercise Angles to Really Impact Your Core!
Inevitably, improved core strength will lead to an improvement in your sports performance. However, a mistake that many people make when trying to target their core is to think doing 100 crunches will be effective, but that’s incorrect. They forget about all the other important ancillary muscles that make up the core. This article will highlight 8 different exercises that will help you target all parts of your core, focusing on the 4 aforementioned muscle groups but also working others such as the multifidus (lumbar stabilizer) and the quadratus lumborum (QL) deep lumbar muscle.
Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms on the floor over your head. Then simultaneously raise your legs and torso, trying to reach your raised feet with your hands. Slowly lower limbs back to the starting position and repeat.
2. Front Plank
Lie prone, placing your forearms on the floor in front of you to prop yourself up off of the floor. Make sure your body is straight and hold your position for 60 seconds, relax. Then try for 90 seconds, and so on.
3. Dead Bugs
Lie on your back with your hands in the air and feet up with your knees at 90 degrees. Extend one leg until your heel is an inch off the floor, simultaneously lower your opposite arm parallel to the floor. Return to starting position and repeat with the other leg and arm.
4. Flutter Kicks
Lie flat on your back with your legs fully extended. Place your hands down by your sides and lift your legs up slightly off the ground, keeping them extended. Lift one leg above the other (keeping the knee straight), then bring that leg down and lift the other. Repeat.
5. Side Plank
Lie on your side and set your forearm perpendicular on the floor to hold you up, making sure that your legs, knees and hips are straight. Hold this position for as long as you can. Switch to the other side.
6. Russian Twists
Sit on the floor and maintain your balance as you raise your feet up off the floor. Place your hands in front of you (with or without holding a weight) and rotate your torso to one side and then the other. Repeat.
Lie on your back, tighten your abs and then squeeze your buttocks and raise it off the floor with your body. Hold for 3 seconds and then return to the original position.
8. Bird Dogs
Kneel on all fours with your legs and hands slightly apart. Raise your arm out straight while simultaneously extending the leg on the opposite side of the body. Lower both limbs back original position and repeat for the opposite arm and leg. You use your core every day and it is involved in most movements, whether it’s lifting, reaching, twisting or bending, it all requires the use of your core.
Strengthening your core muscles will help to stabilise your spine and pelvis to create a solid base of support in order to perform strong and powerful movements as well as improving balance, reducing back pain and improving your overall posture. You should definitely try and incorporate a few of these exercises into your fitness routine for real-world confidence, and practical as well as functional abdominal health.