The core muscles include the famous ab’s, lower back, and hip muscles (who would have thought!). Together they support the spine, our posture, and transfer the force between the upper and lower half of the body.
Why do I need to exercise my core?
- Improved posture
- Less stress on the back means less back pain
- Improved balance and stability – seriously useful at all ages but particularly as we get older as we have increased risk of falls, or for athletes in sports that need quick changes of direction
- Increased athletic performance in many sports providing you with a stable base from which you can generate power and movement from
- Reduced your risk of injury particularly in the lower back, hips, and pelvis
When should I train my core muscles?
The best time to train your core muscles can vary depending on your schedule, goals, and personal preferences. It’s worth considering your workout routine and incorporating core exercises at the beginning, middle, or end of your workout. Many people prefer to train their core muscles at the beginning of their workout to activate them and help stabilise the body during other exercises. Others prefer adding them at the end, like a ‘burn out round’ to finish off their abs after exercise.
How often should I train my core?
Again – it depends on you and your personal fitness, goals, and training routine but ideally aim to include core exercises 2-3 times per week. You don’t have to spend an age on them – 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times a week and you’ll see a marked improvement after a month.
Make it easy to do and include them during your warm-up, cool-down, or as an extra, short session to supplement your strength and cardio training.
It’s definitely worth varying the type of exercises you do to target different areas of your core – you’ll see a few suggestions further down.
Ultimately, it’s essential to listen to your body and avoid overtraining your core muscles, as this can lead to injury and hinder your progress.
Listen to your body: It’s important to listen to your body and avoid overtraining your core muscles. If you feel fatigued or sore from a previous workout, give your core muscles time to rest and recover before training them again.
Incorporate core exercises into your daily routine: You don’t have to go to the gym to train your core muscles. You can incorporate simple exercises like planks, sit-ups, and crunches into your daily routine, such as before or after work or during commercial breaks while watching TV.
There are several types of training that can be effective for developing core strength and stability including:
- Resistance training: with weights or bodyweight, like planks, crunches, and leg raises
- Yoga: including boat pose, plank, and downward-facing dog
- Pilates: really focuses on the core strength and flexibility
- Cardiovascular exercise: while exercises like running or cycling don’t specifically target the core, they help improve overall fitness, which can lead to better core strength and stability.
Feeling stuck, bored or confused about which might work best for you? Speak with a Physio or fitness professional to better understand which exercises will help meet your specific needs and goals.
Plank with Knee to Elbow Twist: Begin in a plank position with your hands under your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart. Slowly bring your right knee to your left elbow, then return to plank position. Repeat on the other side. This exercise targets your abs, obliques, and hip flexors.
Bicycle Crunches: Lie on your back with your hands behind your head and your knees bent. Lift your shoulders off the ground and bring your right elbow to your left knee while extending your right leg. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. This exercise targets your rectus abdominis and obliques.
Russian Twists: Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lean back slightly and lift your feet off the ground. Hold a weight or a medicine ball in front of your chest and twist your torso to the right, then to the left. This exercise targets your obliques.
Lateral Leg Raises: Lie on your side with your legs straight and stacked on top of each other. Lift your top leg as high as you can, then lower it back down. Repeat on the other side. This exercise targets your hip abductors.
V-Ups: Lie on your back with your arms extended overhead and your legs straight. Lift your legs and arms off the ground at the same time, bringing your hands towards your feet. Lower back down and repeat. This exercise targets your rectus abdominis and hip flexors.
Standing Oblique Crunches: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands behind your head. Crunch to one side, bringing your elbow towards your hip. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. This exercise targets your obliques.
Dead Bug: Lie on your back with your arms extended towards the ceiling and your legs in Tabletop position (knees bent at a 90-degree angle). Slowly lower your right arm and left leg towards the ground, keeping them hovering above the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. This exercise targets your abs and hip flexors.
Toe Touches: Lie on your back with your legs straight up in the air. Reach your hands towards your toes, lifting your head and shoulders off the ground. Lower back down and repeat. This exercise targets your rectus abdominis.
Remember to always engage your core muscles and maintain proper form throughout your exercises.
The Take Home?
- The best time to train your core muscles depends on your schedule, goals, and personal preferences.
- Experiment with different times and frequencies to find what works best for you, and always listen to your body to avoid overtraining or injury.
- Remember that it’s important to progress your training gradually and listen to your body.
- Overtraining or pushing too hard too soon can lead to injury and setbacks in your progress. By staying consistent and gradually increasing the intensity and difficulty of your exercises, you should start to see improvements in your core strength within a few weeks to a couple of months.
Overall, core strength is crucial for maintaining good health and preventing injuries. Incorporating core strengthening exercises into your workout routine can help you to improve your posture, balance, and athletic performance, while reducing the risk of injury and back pain. I’d love to hear what works for you, what exercises and sports you find give you the core strength you need and any questions you’d like some information on in the future!
Thank you for checking in and take care,