Core muscle exercises help stabilize and strengthen the trunk of your body. You'll be able to balance easier, and make it easier to transmit force from your lower body to your upper body.
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Take a look at the exercises below and choose the ones that are right for you. Start slowly, choose just 3 - 4 exercises, work them into your regular routine, and make sure you're sore after your workout - to make sure your core's getting stronger each time!
The planks are static exercises to strengthen your core. Just assume the position with good posture and hold it for 1-2 minutes, or more if you have a really strong core.
Once you've got the hang of them, you can wear a backpack or take an arm or leg off the ground to make them harder. Or get a friend to sit on your back ;-) Either way, it'll be more difficult.
For the front plank, have only your toes and forearms touching the ground. Support the rest of your body above it, flat, and hold that position.
Keeping your core (and entire body) tight is what makes this exercise useful. Make sure you're not letting your stomach sag down and relax - keep it tight!
The back plank is similar to the front plank, except you'll be supporting yourself on your heels and elbows/forearms facing upward. This requires flexible shoulders to get your elbows back far enough.
Same deal as the Front Plank, keep your body tight and hold that position.
With the side plank you'll be on your side on the floor. You'll be supporting yourself with your feet and either a hand or forearm on the ground. Again, hold the position while keeping the geometry correct and not letting your body sag.
The push-up is a great upper body exercise, as well as a great core exercise. For the core, it's a plank that's moving.
Set your hand at approx. shoulder width, support yourself on your hands and toes, and start doing push-ups. For your core, make sure that you keep your body tight and don't let your stomach sag. I keep saying it, but it's essential!
Keeping the whole trunk of your body tight is the whole point of doing push-ups as a core exercise.
Do some exercises with a partner throwing and catching a medicine ball. You can squat down and stand up when holding the medicine ball, and catching the ball forces you to absorb the force with your core.
Don't try to dodge the weight - just catch it and tense your core to absorb the energy.
These weighted core muscle exercises are good if you're want to lift more than your body-weight, or want a strong all around body. These compound exercises work the whole body and use the core as an integral part to support their movements.
The squat is normally thought of as a leg exercise, and that's true. But to support the weight you need a strong core to keep from crumbling under the weight.
This is even more true for the front squat, with the bar on your shoulders in front of your neck. It'll work you core to keep you upright and able to do the exercise.
Both of these movements involve pressing a weight above your head, which takes a strong core to stabilize. If you're not all there, you can get off balanced - which is really dangerous - just be aware and focus while working out.
Now you've got the exercises. Now choose the best ones, get out there, and start practicing them!
Oh, and be sure to sign up for the e-zine Starting Strong to get monthly strength training, exercise, and diet tips e-mailed to you - and access to the free e-book Train Smart, Eat Smart: Exercise Nutrition Hacks!
1. Brungardt, Kurt. 1993. The Complete Book of Abs. New York: Villard Books. Pp. 54-55.
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