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There are a lot of core strengthening exercises out there. Some are effective and some are not. In this article we will describe and explain the seven best core strengthening exercises that will target all aspects of your core.

What is my “core”?

The word “core” gets thrown around a lot in the health and fitness industry and often leaves you wondering what it actually consists of. Well, “Core” is an umbrella term to describe the following muscles:

  • Rectus abdominus – This is the muscle that allows you to bend forwards or to flex your trunk.
  • Erector Spinae – This muscle is placed on either side of your spine. It allows your trunk to bend backwards and to stand up straight from a bent over position. They are also known as back extensors.
  • Internal and external obliques – These are the muscles that allow our trunk to rotate. They also allow us to bend side to side with the help of the erectus spinae and rectus abdominus.
  • Transvers abdominus – This is the muscle that allows us to compress our abdominals and draw our abdominal towards our spine.
  • Multifidi – Holds your spine stable during movement.

Why am I training it?

You will often hear health and fitness professionals talk about core strengthening and they seem to make a pretty big thing about it, but why? Well, training your core is not about trying to get a six-pack or to be in beach body shape…although it can help. No, your core helps with the following:

  • It creates stability and balance for the rest of your body just like a tree with strong roots will keep it strong and erect. Most movement actually starts from your core and moves outwards, they are just more subtle than your limb movements.
  • A strong core helps to prevent back pain. Your abdominal muscles, lower back muscles and all of the other muscles mentioned above support your back. If they are strong they can tolerate more, especially during strenuous activity or prolonged sitting. You’ll be amazed at what some core strengthening exercises can do to reduce back pain.
  • It protects your internal organs and spinal cord. Most of our organs are lucky enough to be protected by bone but it’s down to our core to take care of the ones that aren’t. We also need to ensure our ever so important spinal cord is well supported and protected by the muscles surrounding it; otherwise it could lead to poor movement and pain.

So What Exercises Can I Do to Strengthen my Core?

Sliding Pike

Core Exercise - Sliding Pike - Part 1 Core Exercise - Sliding Pike - Part 2

Working muscles: rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus and multifidi.

Equipment/environment: A towel or kitchen towel and a floor that has little friction (not carpet).

Starting position: Press up position with toes on towel.

Description: Keep your legs straight while sliding your toes up towards your chest. You should only be bent at the hips so that your body appears to be in an upside down ‘V’, then slide your feet back to the starting position.

Repetitions’: Aim to do about 10-15

 

Jacknife

Core Exercise - Jacknife - Part 1  Core Exercise - Jacknife - Part 2

Working Muscles:  rectus abdominus and transvers abdominus.

Equipment/environment: Nil needed. Perhaps a yoga mat.

Starting position: Lay on your back. Place your arms to either side of your body. Contract your abdominals so that your shoulders are off the floor and look down your body – you will need to maintain this position throughout the exercise. Hold your legs fully extended with your heels about two inches off the floor.

Description: Pull your knees in towards your chest and breathe out at the same time. Aim to squeeze your abdominals as tight as possible and lift your coccyx (tail bone) off the floor. Then slowly return to the starting position while breathing in.

Repetitions’: Aim to do about 10-15

 

Supine Heel Taps

Core Exercise - Supine Heel Taps - Part 1  Core Exercise - Supine Heel Taps - Part 2

Working muscles: Rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques and transverse abdominus.

Equipment/environment: Nil needed. Perhaps a yoga mat.

Starting position: Lay on your back. Place your arms to either side of your body. Contract your abdominals so that your shoulders are off the floor and look down your body. Also bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor – you will need to maintain this position throughout the exercise.

Description: Reach your right hand to your right heel so that your torso bends sideways then reach for your left heel with your left hand.

Repetitions’: Aim to do this at least 10 times on each side.

 

Bridges

Core Exercise - Bridges - Part 1  Core Exercise - Bridges - Part 2

Working muscles: Erectus spinae, transverse abdominus and multifidi.

Equipment/environment: Nil needed. Perhaps a yoga mat.

Starting position: Lay on your back with your legs bent so that your feet are flat on the floor and place your arms to either side of your body.

Description: Pull your abdominals in towards your spine to activate your transverse abdominus. Slowly lift your pelvis off the floor and pull each vertebrae up at a time until your pelvis is in line with your knees and shoulders. Ensure to squeeze your glute (bottom) muscles to create greater stability. If this is too easy then straighten one leg and maintain the position before returning to the starting position.

Repetitions’: Repeat this about 10-15 times (alternate legs if you decided to do the more difficult version).

 

Mountain Climbers

Core Exercise - Mountain Climbers - Part 1  Core Exercise - Mountain Climbers - Part 2

Working muscles: transverse abdominus, multifidi and rectus abdominus.

Equipment/environment: Nil needed. Perhaps a yoga mat.

Starting position: Start in a press up position. Ensure your pelvis is in line with your shoulders and heels (do not stick your bottom in the air).

Description: Pull your knee in towards your chest while ensuring you maintain a straight posture then return your leg back to the starting position. Alternate legs and do this exercise quickly with good form. Squeeze your abdominals throughout the exercise.

Repetitions’: Aim to do this repeatedly for about 1 minute.

Pancakes

Core Exercises - Pancakes - Part 1  Core Exercises - Pancakes - Part 2

Working muscles: Rectus abdominus and Transverse abdominus.

Equipment/environment: Nil needed. Perhaps a yoga mat.

Starting position: Lay on your back with your knees bent towards your chest. Look down your body so that your rectus abdominus is engaged.

Description: Sit all the way up while straightening your legs out wide so that they create a ‘V’ on the floor then reach forwards with your hands as far as you can to feel a stretch on your hamstrings. Return to the starting position but ensure your bottom does not come off the floor and keep looking down your body.

Repetitions’: Aim to do this repeatedly for about 1 minute.

Plank

Core Exercises - Plank

Working muscles: Transverse abdominus.

Equipment/environment: Nil needed. Perhaps a yoga mat.

Starting position: Your forearms and toes must be the only parts of your body in contact with the floor. Ensure your body is completely straight so your pelvis should be in line with your shoulders and heels.

Description: Pull your abdominals in towards your spine and create tension to support your lower back in this position. This is an isometric exercise so hold this position for the duration of the exercise.

Repetitions’: Aim to hold this for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

 

We hope you enjoy the exercises provided and we hope these exercises benefit you. If you have any back pain you should consult with a physiotherapist before you attempt these exercises to ensure this is the right course of action. For more information contact Capital Physio on 0330 333 0435 or visit our website www.capitalphysio.com .

Article by Joshua Bryant, Chartered Physiotherapist at Capital Physio

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