Our core is such an important part of our body composition but can easily be overlooked.
If you have a weak core, you are missing the link in the armour for your body. It connects our upper to lower body, it keeps us upright, helps us twist and turn and move freely without collapsing. When we have a weak core, we begin to see our ability to move become harder and our risk of injury increases.
WHAT IS OUR CORE?
Our core is a highly complex structure and holds many vital organs surrounded by thick layers of muscular tissue. We have our abdominal muscles that are superficial and give us the 6-pack appeal, but our core runs deeper than this and these deep muscles can’t be neglected.
The core muscles have been suggested not only to protect the spine from excessive force but also play an important role in body stabilization and force generation during sport activity.
Our core muscles are layered to help us do simple movements, like sitting up each morning to get up from bed. We have our obliques which help us twist and turn from side to side. Our core runs through the entire torso – our deep and superficial back muscles help support our spine and keep us standing upright.
HOW DO WE STRENGTHEN OUR CORE?
There are many ways to develop strength within our core, such as core activation exercises and Pilates.
When you are working out at the gym, it is important to activate your core – this will ensure that your abdominal muscles will be working correctly. This can be tiring to do – especially if you are unsure which muscle group you are targeting – an Accredited Exercise Physiologist can help you!
Another great way to strengthen your core is Pilates. This form of exercise is fantastic for working both your superficial and deep abdominal muscles. Pilates can also help work our glute and leg muscles, controlling our hip rotation and helping with keeping us stable.
This form of exercise is based on three principles: breath, whole body health and whole-body commitment.
The action is slow, controlled movements that focus on the flow of the movement in cohesion with breath and deep concentration. Pilates can be referred to as the space where yoga flow meets resistance training.
Through this form of exercise, muscles are worked under slow repeated efforts and sometimes will also incorporate a form of resistance. This slower form of exercise is great for working the deeper, stabilizing muscles.
In other forms of training these muscles can be overridden by the larger groups, however slowing down the movement provides the ability for that real deep burn and that great post-workout feeling!
So, the real question, what happens to us when our core is weak?
Our core is what keeps us upright and staying strong in our everyday posture.
Weaker muscles will mean that our body will compensate and place extra load onto supporting joints and other muscles = not a very nice feeling!
Common injuries that arise will be back pain, hunched posture, muscle and joint injuries. These types of injuries become more common as we age and as we place less importance and time on our overall health. With added weight gain we also see ourselves becoming weaker in the core and moving becoming harder and harder.
How do we prevent these injuries and weakness through the core?
It is always great to stay active and spend a small amount of time each day training the core. There are lots of different ways to strengthen your core, it all depends on what style of training you like – and follow through with that!
Give these exercises a go at home, remember slow and controlled!
Complete 3 to 5 rounds of these three exercises – grab a timer, set it to work for 40 seconds with 20 seconds rest in between, let’s go!
1. Dead bugs: start lying on your back, arms straight up into the sky, keeping your back flat. Have your legs up with your knees bent forming a 90 degree angle. Extend your left leg and right arm out then come back in. Repeat on other side, keeping the movement slow. Continue to swap until the timer stops!
2. Plank: starting on your elbows and toes, we want to be lying flat, avoiding our bum sticking up or dropping low – imagine you have a glass of water you cannot let drop. Hold this position until the timer stops. To make it easier, drop to both knees and hold a straight back from knees to head. To make it harder alternate lifting one foot off the ground at a time, holding it up for a count of 3 each time!
3. Russian twists: this exercise will target out obliques and help build our strength in twisting movements. Sitting down with a nice straight back, weight is optional, we slowly twist from side to side, pausing and counting to 2 in the middle. To make it harder lift our legs off the ground and don’t let them move.
If you want more advice about what exercises are safe for your individual needs, click here to find an accredited exercise professional near you.
Written by Georgia Winter, Accredited Exercise Scientist at the Allied Health Team.