There are many benefits to having a seriously strong core beyond just having that Hollywood six-pack. A strong and healthy core is vital to everyday movement and functioning, and offers a vital stabilising and balancing force to your body. The team here at Elite Outdoor Fitness Academy offer circuit training in Essex; we wanted to go through some of the main benefits of strengthening your core, as well as some of the exercises you can to help get you there! We’re also offering a free unlimited 2-week trial for our academy to those people that sign up here!
First, though, let’s look at what muscles the core actually involves. The ‘core’ is a collection of muscles around the body’s trunk, or midriff, consisting of: the pelvic floor muscles, transverse abdominal (TVA), multifidus, obliques (both internal and external), rectus abdominis – the paired muscle which most people think of when they think of ‘abs’, the erector spinae and, finally, the diaphragm.
Now, we’re not expecting you to become a physiotherapist overnight, and knowing what each and every core muscle does isn’t necessary; all you need to know is that in strengthening those muscles, you build a stronger, healthier body overall. Our circuit training in Essex includes exercises in every workout which target the core muscles – either directly or indirectly through other compound movements. What, then, are the benefits to strengthening your core (asides aesthetic)?
If you sit at a desk all day, or naturally have a tendency to slouch, then you might well find that your neck, shoulder and back are becoming increasingly sore and stiff. A stronger trunk helps you both stand and sit straighter, and prevent painful medical problems like hernias from ever developing.
If back pain has been the bane of your life, then working on your core muscles just might help you out. It’s important to note, of course, that if you’ve not ever worked your core specifically – or at least haven’t for a while – then ease yourself back in slowly. You don’t want the very thing you’re doing to help alleviate your back pain be the thing that ends up putting your back out!
Even the simplest of tasks require engaging your core to at least some extent. From bending up to pick a dropped pen all the way through to standing up from the sofa, your core muscles see pretty much constant use throughout the day. We’ve written previously about the benefits of functional exercise, as opposed to training with isolated movements for purely aesthetic purposes. Well, the core group of muscles is about as functional as it gets! Even sitting still at your desk uses your core – seriously!
A staple of workouts for decades, the plank is one of the best tests of core strength there is – and it’s deceptively simple. Start in a press-up position (arms extended) before lowering yourself down onto your forearms; make sure you don’t sag too low, or arch your back and bum too much into the air. Look straight ahead, hold this position and don’t forget to breathe! Aim to add on ten seconds every time to start with, trust us you’ll feel it soon enough!
This movement revolves around a twisting motion, meaning it’s a great exercise to target your obliques. One of the common errors with core workouts is to focus too much on the abdominal muscles, and leave the obliques neglected as a result. An imbalanced core, whilst still preferable to an untrained core, can still actually cause issues – if you don’t work your obliques, you may still find yourself blighted by those lower back issues.
To perform the Russian twist, sit down on the floor with your legs out straight in front of you. Then, lean back so that your legs raise slightly and you form sort of V-shape with your body. Cross over your legs for stability, and then – still holding that V-position – twist your torso from side to the other. It’s important that you keep those legs stable and your trunk stable.
It looks easy – it’s not. The hollow hold involves first lying on the floor, facing upwards and with your arms stretched out behind your head. Make sure to lie on a yoga mat or a towel so as not to hurt or bruise your back. Then, raise your arms slightly overhead, and raise your legs whilst keeping your lower back flat to the ground. Hold this position for as long as you can, you’ll thank us (probably not) later!
The cheapest, most trusted piece of equipment out there on the market is unquestionably yourself. Your core is one of the easiest muscle groups to work without any additional equipment. This means that working out your core is a great option when you’ve not got access to a gym or fitness academy and their equipment.
If you’re looking to add a bit of weight to your core exercises, then the medicine ball is a great tool in the toolkit. The more resistance your muscles are met with, the more they have to work, the more they’re damaged and the greater the subsequent repair (which is what muscle growth in essence is).
The kettlebell is particularly useful for those exercises which, whilst not targeting the core muscles specifically, give them a good working out all the same. Everything from the simple, like kettlebell swings, through to the more advanced ‘Turkish getup’ targets your core muscles, whilst also working other muscle groups too.
So, if you’d like to find out more about our outdoor fitness classes and circuit training in Essex, then get in touch! Contact Elite Outdoor Fitness Academy today on 01702 232 470 or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget, if you register today then you can get an unlimited 2-week trial! What’s not to like? Check out our session schedule here.