By Blake and Gwen Beckcom
If you are like many other people, you go to the gym with the goal of achieving a flatter stomach and firm abs. Most people want a toned stomach – not only to improve physical health but also for an ego boost.
However, if your only goal when you are working out is to get visible abs and you are focusing on doing situps for hours, it may end up not giving you the results that you are looking for.
The truth is, your core isn’t just one muscle. Rather, it is a lot of muscles bunched together to hold together your abdomen and connect your hips, backbone, shoulders and neck together, and keep your body in place. If you do exercises that are micro-focused on only your stomach, you are leaving out a lot of the muscles that are an important part of that muscle group.
The good thing is, there are a lot of exercises that you can do to effectively work all of your most important muscles. Here are some exercises you can do to increase the strength in your core and obtain a healthy and toned core.
Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart with a heavy dumbbell placed in front of each foot. Bend forward at your waist while maintaining a flat spine and a neutral, relaxed neck. Lower your torso down toward the ground until you are able to reach down to pick up the weights. Push down on your heels and tighten your core to help you return to a standing position as you lift the weights. Then, lower the weight back down to the ground to complete one rep. Do this eight to 12 times and complete up to four sets of this exercise. Do this along with your strength workout twice a week.
Start by holding one heavy dumbbell in each hand. Stand up straight with your shoulders back. While keeping your core muscles engaged and standing up tall, walk forward 10 steps. Then, turn around, take 10 steps to return to your starting position, and return your weights to the ground to complete one rep. Do three to four sets of four reps twice a week.
Start in a tabletop position and raise your right arm until your hand is at an equal height with your ear. Then, simultaneously lift your left leg until it is at a 90-degree angle with your body. Return to your starting position and repeat this exercise with your left arm and right leg. Make sure to tighten your ab muscles to give yourself some stability and prevent yourself from leaning towards one side. Do 10-15 reps three to four times every day.
Why does core strength matter?
You don’t want to just strengthen your abs for aesthetic reasons. There are many extremely strong people in the world who don’t sport a six-pack. There are other things you will gain from having strong abs.
- You’ll avoid pain.
Having a strong core is a prominent factor in keeping yourself free from injuries, especially in your hips and knees. Research actually shows that women who regularly engage their cores have more control over the movement of their knees while they are doing strength exercises such as squats and lunges, which can help protect against an ACL injury.
Your core also stabilizes your pelvis and femurs, and help your glutes fight pain. Essentially, without having a strong core, you are missing out of having the foundation for pain-free movement.
- Improve your posture.
Your core muscles support your spine, which makes it easier to have proper and healthy posture. Having correct posture will prevent the small movements in your spine that lead to pain. Also, having proper posture looks good and will give you a boost of confidence.
- Increase your athleticism.
With an increased amount of core power, you will have an advantage over other people in sports because your stability, balance and agility will come from the center of your body. As long as your core muscles are all working together while you move, all of your power will be equally translated from your lower body to your upper body. This will allow you to rotate your core when you’re throwing, punching or serving a ball. It will also help you absorb force while you are decelerating, such as when you are falling, catching or diving.
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