Core Exercise Basics

Why are core exercises important?

Some may ask what do you mean by core? When we describe core exercises we are talking about exercises that strengthen the trunk and pelvis area of our bodies. When we neglect this area of our body it impacts every part of our physical body, how we feel, and how we carry ourselves.

3 Reasons our CORE is important

1. Improves balance and stability

Our lower back, abdomen, and hips work in tandem to allow us to have better endurance and strength.  When we strengthen these areas we are helping ourselves so we can participate safely in various activities

2. Encourages healthy aging

As we age our bone structure is not as strong as when we are young. Even with a great diet and proper supplements, we age. Keeping the trunk muscles of our body fit, allows our bones to not have to do the job of aging weakened muscles. We all age but how we age can be influenced by our fitness level.

3. Protects your vital organs

Remember that your core muscles protect and support the organs of your body. One of the phrases I have heard used on old boxing movies is “hit’em where he lives.” That is so true!  Our core muscles protect and support the important organs of our body, so don’t forget about them when you go to the gym.

3 Core Exercises

Prior to listing the three exercises that can help to strengthen your core, I want to mention that I chose three that I use. I also chose these three because they require no equipment and can be done anywhere. I would suggest that you practice these 2-3 times a week. Including core exercises as part of a circuit is a great idea!  See an article on Beginning Circuits here.

1. Simple Plank

Lie face down on the floor with your body resting on your forearms and your palms flat on the floor. Your legs should be touching all the way down to your ankles. Raise your body off of the floor with your weight resting on your forearms and your toes. Hold this position for perhaps 20 seconds to start. Repeat this 3-5 times. As you become stronger hold the position longer. Work up to a minute at a time for plank.

For those of you who, like me, were unable to even do one plank to start, start with an incline of some sort like a step stool or even a step. Do the exercise the same as above but instead of laying flat on the floor start at an angle. The higher the angle the easier the exercise.

2. Lumbar Roll

Lie on your back with your knees raised as if you are seated in a chair. Stretch out your arms to each side and keeping your shoulders against the ground, rotate your legs to the right and touch the floor. Bring them back up to the center and then rotate your legs to the left side. I do this not only to strengthen but also to stretch my lower back. At first, if you find it difficult, perform 3 sets of 5-10 reps and build up to 25-30 reps.

3. Superman

Lie face down on the floor. Extend your arms out front with your elbows just slightly bent. Then using your lower back lift your chest up off the floor with your arms stretched out in front of you. You would look like Superman when he is flying. Do not lift both your legs at the same time as this can put too much strain on the disks in your back.  Also, don’t raise your head more than 8 inches. We want to strengthen the lower back not injure it!  Finally, our goal is to do 3 reps of about a minute, but start with 3 reps of 15 seconds and work your way up.

Now please be careful when trying any of these exercises.  If you have had medical issues in the past with your back and/or trunk, please ask your doctor before starting.