Fitness

Understanding Core Muscles: Overall Strength and Fitness

Let’s start by defining what exactly the core is. When most of us think about a strong core, we picture 6-pack abs and getting there by doing 1 million crunches per day. But, the core muscles have little to do with the 6-pack abs on top and are actually deep muscles that make up the trunk of your body. They are responsible for protecting your vital organs and help you perform everyday movements.

Why a strong core is important

Your core is your powerhouse. A strong core helps you balance, allows you to sit or stand with perfect posture and improves your form in most exercises. Below are reasons why all of this matters. Let’s breakdown exactly why this is important and how it impacts specific training areas:

Balance and stability

Your core is involved in every fundamental movement that you do – reaching, bending, twisting and lifting – and helps you balance and stabilize as you move through your day. The stronger your core, the stronger your balance and stabilization. So, how can you tell if you have a weak core? Tune into how much you wobble during different exercise moves, especially ones that require balance. If you can perform most exercises with strong form and without falling over, feel proud.

Performing some step-ups are one of the ways you can test your balance and core strength -here is how to perform them:

  1. Find a stable chair, box or bench (the higher the piece of equipment, the harder the exercise)
  2. Stand up straight just behind the box
    Keeping your chest up and back straight, lift one leg and place your foot firmly on the box
  3. Press through the leading foot and bring your other foot up onto the box so that you are standing on the box with both feet
  4. Take the leg you started with and lower it slowly to the ground again, keeping your back straight and chest up
  5. Return the other foot to the ground as well — repeat leading with the other side

Pro tip: To really challenge yourself, add weights. First try holding dumbbells by your sides as you step up and down. To make the movement more advanced, try holding a weighted plate overhead.

Prevent back pain and poor posture

The muscles in your core surround the trunk of your body and support your spine. Since many of us lead inactive, sedentary lives, our core muscles weaken over time. This weakness, combined with slouching over a computer or phone, wreaks havoc on our posture and lower back.

Pro tip: If you spend a lot of your day sitting, be more conscious of your posture. Sit up straight and don’t slouch. A great way to work on this is by swapping your desk chair for an exercise ball. The instability of the ball forces your core to engage more to prevent you from falling off.

Improve weight-lifting

Having a solid foundation is the basis for success. When it comes to fitness – or movement in general – your core is that foundation. If your core is strong, you’ll have the ability to improve overall strength and lift heavier with better form.

Pro tip: Always try and keep your core engaged throughout any movement. This makes sure that your core is fired up and working extra hard. To engage your core, tense your muscles as if you were about to get hit in the stomach by a dodgeball or, like Coach Marife says as if you were about to be tickled.

Exercises for a strong core

Exercising regularly, especially when you introduce resistance-based exercises, will help strengthen your core. Even in an exercise as basic as the squat, when performed correctly, switches your core on to help you execute the movement without falling over. Strengthen your core muscles with three of my favorite exercises:

  • Plank
  • Back extensions
  • One-legged deadlifts

8fit workouts designed to help you get stronger and develop your essential core muscles. I advise that you do 8fit workouts at least 4 times per week to really see the benefits and to feel your improved core strength over time.

You’re only a workout away to a stronger core and improved movement. Let’s make today count!