Building core strength is an essential component to complete fitness, and strengthening your core muscles is the correct way of going about it. We all want the chiseled six-pack abs that are so nice to look at, but first we need to focus our attention on other components of the core.
We focus on these other core components first so we don’t pick up any injuries that can linger and take away from our progress. The “core” is comprised of the abdominal wall, the pelvis, lower back and diaphragm. In order to see all of the benefits of a fit core, each of these components must get the attention they need.
The first step is stabilizing the spine. In order to do this, many of the initial exercises will focus on resisting force and isometric (static) holds. These exercises are geared at strengthening the Transverse Abdominis (TVA), which is the inner most abdominal muscle. Here are a couple basic exercises that will aid in strengthening the TVA.
Elbow Plank Exercise: This basic plank is great for building core strength. In order to get the most out of this exercise, the core muscles must be fully engaged. To accomplish this, place your forearms on the ground so your elbows are directly below your shoulders. Keep your body completely straight, tightening your abdominal muscles. It is imperative that you do not allow your but to stick up in the air or sink down to the ground. If your butt sticks up in the air, the core muscles will not remain engaged and if you allow your butt to sink towards the ground, you will put a lot of strain on your lower back. Start by holding the plank position for 15 to 30 seconds. As you become stronger, try holding the exercise for up to a minute. The longer you can hold the position perfectly the stronger your underlying core muscles will become.
Side Plank Exercise: Side planks are great for targeting the oblique muscles, glutes, hips and legs and also contribute to building core strength. Place your right (or left) elbow on the ground and extend both legs perpendicular to your arm so that you are resting on the outside of your right (or left) foot. Once you have propped yourself up into the side plank, be sure to drive your bottom hip upwards toward the ceiling. This will ensure that the oblique muscles stay fully engaged through out the exercise.
As the body adjusts and becomes more stable, it is easier to focus on strengthening the Rectus Abdominis (“six pack abs”) and the Oblique muscles. Paying attention to the little details is extremely important to the development of the core. Take the time to engage your core muscles in each exercise you do. Core stability exercises will help to ensure you build the base you need for a healthier core.
Photo courtesy of Sellers Jenkins