Building a strong core involves more than abs

Published March 28

Those poor abdominals are so misunderstood. For starters, we have people zealously performing ab exercises, believing they can lose that unwanted fat lying on top of the ab muscles. This is a myth that has been hanging around for years. Spot reducing just doesn’t work. You cannot predict where you will lose fat. To lose body fat, aerobic exercise and strength conditioning involving the whole body, plus a healthy well-balanced diet, need to be involved. And now, another big misunderstanding has emerged: the idea that the abs are flying solo when it comes to strengthening the core. The reality is that while abdominal muscles do play an important role in core stability, they are just a small part of a team of muscle groups that make up the core. To develop a strong core, you need to involve a variety of muscles from your hips to your shoulders. Overtraining those abs and neglecting to strengthen the other core muscles can set you up for injuries.

So what exactly is the core?

You might say the core is almost everything in your body except for your legs and arms. Core exercises help create a solid base of support for the pelvic muscles, abdominal muscles, middle and lower back and hip muscles. Some fitness experts include the shoulder girdle, which includes the clavicle. And we use all these core muscles in almost every movement we perform.

Having a strong core:

• Fosters functional fitness, making everyday movements and sports activities easier to perform. Power-driven movements originate from the center of the body. And for you golf and tennis enthusiasts, a strong core is essential for a good golf swing and hitting those tennis balls with proper strokes.

• Gives protection to our spine and surrounding muscles.

• Helps reduce back pain by taking pressure off your back.

• Improves balance. Balance begins in the core, and a strong core stabilizes your body, allowing you to move in any direction or to just stand in one place without falling.

• Strengthens posture muscles. Weak core muscles can produce the slumping of shoulders.

• Helps you avoid injuries by preventing or correcting imbalances in posture.

To strengthen your core, try these:

Abdominal bracing: Contract your abs by pulling your navel in toward your spine and hold the contraction for 10 to 15 seconds. Just remember to never hold your breath, simply breathe normally. You can perform this movement throughout the day in a standing or sitting position and when performing exercises.

Stability ball exercises: The movement created by the instability of the ball forces you to keep your abdominals contracted.

Core exercises: Perform specific core-strengthening exercises, such as planks, squats, bridge exercises and pushups.

Free weights: Use weights during exercises that require you to maintain a stable trunk.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can’t respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at [email protected]

   
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