People can get obsessed with fighting flabby arms, thick thighs, and bulging tummies. But, if you stop and think about these body parts, another thought should come to mind. Your core is the place that holds all the glue together to begin a healthy workout. Without a strong core, nothing can be improved.
The core muscles have two main functions. The first is to protect the spine from excessive load and the second is to transfer force from the lower body to the upper body and vice versa. Having a strong, reliable core helps us to prevent injuries and allows us to perform at our best.
In the process of strengthening your core, you may even begin to see a difference in those areas that were so important to you. Flatter bellies and stronger muscles begin to appear while focusing on your core. How is this possible? Take inventory of how you feel when performing an activity. These can include:
- Poor flexibility of arm reach
- Feeling unstable on feet
- Slouching posture
- Easily winded and fatigued
Compare your body’s core to a tree trunk. The more nourishment it receives, the stronger and healthier all of the branches will be. Take care of the base and the rest will be a breeze.
Improve your Balance
You may think that losing your balance is just a sign of getting old. However, poor balance can be due to the core becoming weak and unable to bear the weight of your body. Improve the strength of your core and watch your balance and posture return.
Stand Without Weakness
Pain in the lower appendages when standing is often the result of a weak core. Pain in your lower back can soon move to the hips, legs, knees, or feet. A tingly weakness or numbness can even occur in extreme cases.
Many people do not realize that shortness of breath can be due to a weak core. The diaphragm is an internal muscle that separates your lungs and ribs from your digestive system. It also controls your breathing. The outer core muscles help to support the diaphragm, making breathing easier. When you slouch from a weak core, your breathing automatically becomes shallow.
Improve Stability and Balance
Begin with the muscles that surround your trunk and pelvis. The entire weight of your body rests on this area. When allowed to become weak, your balance begins to wane. There just isn’t enough strength to hold up the upper torso without strong muscles.
Exercise to Add Stamina to Trunk and Pelvis –
The Bridge – Lie flat on your back with knees bent. Tighten your abdomen muscles and push yourself up with your feet. Make sure to hold your back and buttocks straight as you rise. Hold this position as long as possible.
Improve Erector Spinae Muscle
There is a long muscle that extends the length of the spine and is responsible for flexing and rotating the spine. Referred to as the erector spinae muscle, it can become weakened anywhere from the neck to the buttocks. The bird dog crunch helps to strengthen this long, necessary muscle.
Exercise to Strengthen Muscle Surrounding Spine
Bird Dog – Kneel on hands and knees on a soft surface. Concentrate on keeping your back straight. Raise one arm and position it straight with your back. At the same time, raise the opposite leg and keep straight with your back. Hold the position for five seconds and switch sides. This is a tough exercise to conquer. It may take many tries to make the form, but practice will improve your balance.
Core Methods in Reducing Back Pain
Weak abdominal muscles are a large part of causing back pain. You wouldn’t think that a jelly belly would have anything to do with a weak core, but quite the opposite. Your abs are the front part of your spine. When they are weak, other structures that support your spine, have to work harder. Back muscles, hips, and pelvic can take a beating and become sore. There are a few other things that can be done without any strain, just common sense. These include:
- Performing daily stretches
- Getting eight hours of sleep each night
- Lifting with your legs and not your back
- Losing weight if need be
Strengthening Exercises for Abdomen to Lessen Back Pain
Back pain comes from overexerting, injury, or damage to the spine. There are simple exercises and stretches that you can do to help reduce the pain. Some exercises are more of stretching movements to keep your muscles flexible and to relieve tension.
Lie with your back on the floor and knees bent and feet flat. Place your arms at your sides and keep your back straight with the floor. Arch your back and push your stomach out. Hold this position for five seconds, then relax. Build up to 30 times per day.
Knee to Chest Stretch
Elongating the lower back is possible and a great way to relieve pain.
Lie flat on your back and bend your knees with feet flat on the floor. Using your hands, pull one knee towards your head. Hold your knee tightly against your chest for five seconds. At the same time, press your back into the floor. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Using an Exercise Ball
Fitness balls are great for improving the balance and flexibility in your core. Use a fitness ball that places your knees at a right angle when you sit on the ball.
If you’re between 5’1″ and 5’7″, a 55-centimeter ball is a good fit. If you’re between 5’8″ and 6’1″, a 65-centimeter ball will be more comfortable. Anyone over 6’2″ should try a 75-centimeter ball.
The amount of air in a ball is important. The firmer the fitness ball, the more difficult the exercise will be. If you’re just starting out, you might want to slightly deflate the ball. You can inflate the ball as you gain strength and confidence.
A fitness ball can be incorporated into almost any core exercise.
Core Exercises for Your Arms and Shoulders
Your arms and shoulders may not be a direct part of your core, but try lifting your arms above your head and feel the weakness. The muscles in the upper part of your torso get very little movement unless you are a swimmer. This will affect the strength that is needed for reaching and lifting. Don’t neglect the arm exercises when entering into a core exercise program. It will improve your posture and strengthen the muscles around your upper spine area.
Simple Exercises for Strengthening Arms
Arm Circles – Hold your arms straight out from your body and begin making circles in the air with both arms. Make the circles big in the beginning then progress to smaller circles. Start out with ten big circles. When you feel that you can start making little circles, increase the number.
Things to Remember
The abdominal muscles are important because they support the trunk. They also hold your organs in place by controlling the internal abdominal pressure.
Your core muscles help keep your body balanced and stable. They also protect your spine.
Stretching each day prevents strain on your core muscles. Inactivity is the worst method to keep your core muscles in good shape.
Back pain is not always caused by injury. You will be less prone to back pain by keeping your body’s core aligned and upright. If a core is not strengthened then other structures of your back will have to work harder to support the body. This leads to muscle strains and back pain.
The necessary motions of everyday life either originate in your core or move through it. Weak or inflexible core muscles can impair how well your arms and legs function. If you feel the power and strength have been zapped from your extremities, you probably have a weak core.
A weak core can happen at any age or point in your life. We take our bodies for granted and expect them to work like a machine. However, even mechanical equipment needs to be maintained, and taking care of your core will provide the benefit of strong muscles and better stability as you grow older.
If you have pre-existing muscle or bone issues, check with your physician before undertaking a core exercise program.