Maintaining overall fitness is the goal for most people who exercise, but the “core” of your body, that area between your shoulders to the top of your legs, is one of the most crucial areas for staying active and strong. Core strengthening not only helps you to excel at athletic activities and keeps you looking lean, it also helps you to maintain balance, preserve flexibility and prevent back injuries. Here’s a look at why your core is so important and how you can keep the muscles and ligaments of your core in top form.
Understanding the Core of Your Body
The core of the body includes the muscles of the back shoulders, abdomen, pelvis and chest. These areas are the foundation of all movement and all motion in the extremities is dependent on the neural connections that run through the core to the spinal column. Core strengthening allows you to move confidently, adjust your balance easily and maintain strength throughout the body. Your core allows you to move freely, easily and without strain on individual muscle groups. It allows you complete coordination when you engage in athletic activities, protecting your body from overuse of any one area.
Core strengthening becomes even more important as you age, because activity levels often drop, leaving muscles weakened and vulnerable to injury. A strong core helps to improve balance to prevent falls and increase flexibility to stay active.
Exercises For Core Strengthening
These exercises work directly on the muscles of the core to provide the increased strength and stability that will help you to perform well in athletic activities and in everyday life:
1 – The Bridge – For this exercise, lie on your back on a gym or yoga mat. Bend you knees, bringing your feet in closer to your body. Press your feet into the floor, lifting your hips off the mat. Hold for 3 deep breaths. Then, bring your hips back down to the mat. Repeat 10 times.
2 – The Plank – Lie on your stomach on the gym mat. Raise the upper part of your body with your arms, holding your arms extended. Lift the hips off the mat, trying to keep the line of your body as straight as possible. Hold for 3 deep breaths, and then lower your upper body back down to the mat. Repeat 10 times.
3 – Abdominal Crunch – Lie on your back on the mat near a wall and place your feet on the wall with knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Cross hands over your chest, while lifting your head and shoulders off the floor. Hold for 3 deep breaths. Then, release. Repeat 10 times.
4 -Segmented Rotation – Lie on your back on the mat. Bend knees to a 90-degree angle, and then twist at the waist, turning the knees to the right and down to the mat surface. Hold for 5 seconds. Return to the upright position, and then turn the knees to the left and lower to the mat. Repeat each side 5 times.
5 – Quadruped – Start on hands and knees, with hands placed directly below the shoulders. Raise the right hand off the mat and reach. Hold for 3 deep breaths and release. Then, stretch the right leg straight backward & off the mat. Hold for 3 breaths and release. Repeat for the left arm, and then the left leg. Repeat on each extremity 5 times.
6 – Superman Stretch – Lie on your stomach. Stretch your arms straight above your head in line with your body. Lift the upper body off the mat and hold your legs straight outward, just above the surface of the mat in a “Superman” flight position. Hold for 5 seconds, and then release. Repeat 10 times.
If you have a back problem or a serious medical issue, check with your doctor before engaging in any strenuous exercise.