Few things are as important for mobility, stability, and longevity as a strong core.
The core consists of the abdominal muscles, along with the lower back, and oblique muscles. In the exercise world, we tend to get so caught up thinking about ab workouts that we rarely take the chance to think about all the other structural components surrounding them, and how beneficial a strong core can be. If longevity is your goal (and it should be!) a strong core is the key to a lifetime of healthy exercise.
Why do them?
Everything builds from the core. Stability is the key to strength in overhead moves, twisting moves, and moves away from the body. Building a strong core will improve your stability, and therefore strength in these movements. Reducing the risk of injury by increasing core stability should be a goal for anyone interested in any form of exercise.
Are core exercises necessary?
While keeping the core strong should be a priority, doing abs every day is most likely not necessary. This is because many compound motions (motions with lots of moving parts) already demand attention from the core and can strengthen our backs and abs just fine. If you are already engaging your core during exercises, chances are you are already providing enough work for you core.
One of the most common challenges new clients bring to us is a weak, aching, or angry lower back. Inn these cases we may suggest targeted lower back exercises to help strengthen that area. But lower back exercises can be easily overdone, or done incorrectly, and should be supervised if possible.
I’ve heard putting my hands under my back can be useful during ab exercises, is this true?
Your core consists of your abdominal and your back muscles, which work together to stabilize the spine among, other things. When doing exercises like leg raises, bicycles, flutter kicks, etc., the abs contract to counter the movement of the legs. This contraction can often make your back arch and cause lower back pain if done incorrectly. Hands under the lower back is NOT the solution, but hands under your butt may be. Putting your hands under the lower back can actually cause more pain because it changes the weight dispersion, makes your legs feel heavier, and can arch your spine even more. With your hands under your butt, you can keep your spine supported by the ground, and still tire out your abs.
Any other tips for core exercises?
Just one! The importance of breathing during any core exercise cannot be overstated. Because your core helps to push air out of your lungs, breathing with intent can be critical in keeping your core tight while exercising. The easiest rule to follow for breathing during abs, is to breathe when you’re fighting gravity. For example, during a leg raise, exhale when the legs are on their way up.
Some faster ab moves may leave the breathing pattern up to your discretion. Just keep that core tight!
—> A strong core is essential to a healthy, strong, and stable body.
—> Doing compound motions while focusing on your core may be enough core exercise for you!
—> Don’t forget about your back!
—> And always ask for help or an exercise if you need it. That’s what we do!
image from: http://coremusclesdoshinishi.blogspot.com/2017/02/list-of-core-muscles.html
Raul Bello says
Is plank a good core exercise?
The plank is a great core exercise as long as you understand it’s purpose. If you are trying to get a ripped six pack, the core is good but not the best. If your focus is on improving stability and balance to be strong and functional, the plank is a fantastic exercise. I also really like using the side plank with several of my clients. Fun test to do at home: See if you can hold a regular plank for 2 minutes. Then, see if you can hold a side plank for 90 seconds on each side. if you can hit all of those milestones then generally speaking, you have a very strong core that will help you with heavy lifting and preventing injuries!
When placing your hands under your butt, does it matter if they’re placed under the top/middle/section of your butt or as long as they’re placed to allow your back to be flat against the ground it doesn’t matter?
The main purpose of placing the hands underneath you is to make the movement more comfortable on the low back! A common misconception is that the low back needs to be flat and remain in contact with the floor the whole time. By placing the hands underneath you, you can help support your back during the lowering phase of the movement when the low back wants to have a slight arch. Long story short, it won’t really matter, it’s mostly what feels best!
I try doing leg raises but I can’t straighten my legs they seem too weak.
To help build the strength needed, start by doing the leg raises with your knees bent. As you get stronger you will gradually be able to straighten the legs more and more!