Challenge Your Core

19 04 2018

When asked to identify one’s core, most people will point to his or her abs. The core muscles are more than just the rectus abdominal which are the “six-pack” of the stomach. The core muscles can include the gluteus maximus and minimum, hip complex (iliacus, psoas, pectinus), abdominals (rectus, transverse, and obliques), erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, multifidus, latissimus dorsi, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Although there is no specific definition for the “core”, we have to get away from thinking of the core as just your abdominal region.

The purpose of the core muscles are to provide balance and stability to your body(1). No matter if for sport performance or daily function, the core muscles help support the bones and increase ease of movement. The core also aids in keeping our posture in alignment. Picture the folks who are bent over from the waist and always looking down because their muscles in their backs aren’t strong enough to hold their spine in alignment. Also, if you’re an athlete or a weekend warrior, that core needs to be strong to get you through the sport or you’ll end up with some back, hip, shoulder, or foot pain. Yes, a weak core can also cause pain at the other end of your body!

If I ask you to think of some core exercises, you’ll probably come up with a bunch for your abs, specifically for your rectus abdominis, a.k.a “six-pack,” but can you come up with some exercises other exercises to challenge your core? Don’t forget that your body moves in three dimensions so exercises should also involve the three planes of movement; frontal (side to side), sagittal (front to back), and transverse (rotational).

Give your core a challenge with the following exercises. Disclaimer: If you have any health restrictions, please check with your physician before attempting any of these exercises. Also, check with a certified Personal Trainer if you are unsure of your technique. 

Rotational Side Plank with Hip Drop
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Start with your elbow or palm under your shoulder while lying on your side. Lift your hips up off the floor so as much of your side is not in contact. Taking the opposite arm, rotate and reach down and through the space created by the floor and your side. Return back to start and then lower your hip toward the ground. Before it touches, pause and lift the hip back up. Repeat for 8-12 reps, then switch sides.

Quadripeds
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Start in a pushup position with your feet shoulder width apart (you can adjust width to make it easier or harder; wider = easier, narrow = harder). Lift your left arm up in front of your body by your head while at the same lifting your right leg up. Pause for a second and then lower back down. Switch arm and leg lift and repeat for 12-20 reps.

Bicycles
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Lying on your back, extend your legs out with your heels just off the floor and hands behind your head. Begin to bring your right knee up toward your chest as you take your left shoulder (not elbow) and bring it up towards your right knee. Make the timing of this so that the knee and shoulder comes up at the same time. Return the leg and shoulder back down toward the floor at the same time. Then repeat the movement with the other side. Perform 12-20 reps.

Deadlift
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Yes folks, believe it, because this exercise is a total core exercise! I put this last because in order to get the benefits and not injure yourself, technique is paramount. Please use a certified Personal Trainer or Strength and Conditioning Coach if you are performing this for the first time.
Start with legs shoulder width apart. Grip a barbell with hands just outside of your legs (use an over-under grip if needed). Keeping your back straight and shoulders over your arches, push down with your heels to lift yourself and the bar up until you are standing straight up. As you lift the bar, keep the bar close to your legs and keep your back following your path upward so that the back doesn’t hinge forward from the waist. Pause a second at the top and lower yourself back down in the reverse order.

References:
1. “Core exercises: Why you should strengthen your core muscles“ Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/core-exercises/art-20044751


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