The dictionary defines the “core” as the central, innermost or most essential part of anything. Just like a house needs a good foundation and support beams, so too does your body need great core strength to support the rest of the body.
If our core muscles are our bodies most important structural muscles, then it is essential that they are continually trained to remain strong and supple.
The core muscles of your body are those of the pelvis and spine. More specifically they are the deeper muscles of the abdomen and pelvic floor, and those of your spine that run from your tailbone to the top of your neck. These muscles must be exercised on a regular basis to promote stability and mobility in your body; and by extension so you maintain proper posture sitting at your desk, efficient posture as you walk, and minimize wear and tear on your body in the performance of all your movement activities.
Test your core strength with these 3 exercises:
Plank:Lie on your stomach, and prop yourself up on your forearms. Lift up your torso (spine and pelvis) up off the groundand your thighs. Keep your knees on the ground and Make a straight, diagonal line from your knees to your ears. This is the easier version, stick with this version if the next progression is too difficult. The next step is to lift your knees off the ground, so you are balancing on your forearms and feet. (see picture)
Maintain this position for 1 minute. Tip: Can you maintain this position for 1 minute, but more importantly can you maintain excellent form throughout? This means your spine and pelvis stay lifted and strong, they do not sag toward the floor!
Basic spine extension: Lie on your stomach (prone position) with your hands underneath your forehead, palms down toward the floor. Extend your spine and peel your face and chest off the mat (not your stomach). Keep your hands on the ground. Maintain this position for 30 seconds. Again this is the easier version of the exercise. When you can sustain the position, with impeccable form for 30 seconds, challenge yourself by lifting up 1 hand when you extend, and then two (see picture).
Tip: Control the position throughout by keeping your stomach drawn in, and not letting the stomach “balloon out.” Keep the work happening mostly in your upper spine(thoracic), not the lower (lumbar).
Reverse abdominal curl:Lie on your back, and bring your knees up over your hips. Have your feet slightly higher than your knees. Simply curl the back of your pelvis (tailbone and sacrum) off the ground. (see pic)
Hold for 5 seconds and then lower down smoothly. Do 10 repetitions. Feel your lower abdominal muscles working, like a seat belt attached firmly between your belly button and your pubic bone. Tip: Control the movement at all times, both when peeling the pelvis off and lowering it back down. Do not swing the legs back, nor allow the pelvis to “plop” down! You are in charge of your body, not gravity!