Rather than solely focussing on banging out hundred’s of reps to improve your core strength, here’s three top tips to help you achieve a stronger core.
Tip #1 - Think of your core as more than just a six pack
When most people think about having or achieving a strong core, they go right to the six pack… flash back to Peter Andre in mysterious girl video. But your core is so much more…
Broadly speaking, your core is made up by the muscles in your stomach, lower back and your glutes.
Listed below are all the muscles considered to make up the ‘core’
Rectus Abdominis: Located on the front of the abdomen, commonly known as the six pack
Erector Spinae: This is a group of three muscles that run from your neck, all the way down to your lower back.
Multifidus: Located under the Erector Spinae, travelling along the vertebral column, these muscles help to extend and rotate your spine.
External & Internal Obliques: Located on the side and front of you abdomen, external on the top, internals underneath.
Transverse Abdominis: Located under the obliques, this is the deepest of the abdominal muscles and wraps around your spine for protection and stability.
Hip Flexors: located on the front of your body, on the front of your pelvis and upper thigh.
Gluteus Maximus, medius and minimus: These are located at the side and back of the hip
The purpose of these muscles is to work together as a team to support your spine and pelvis…keeping you injury free, keeping your posture upright and supporting the main torso or powerhouse of your body.
Having a strong core is your secret weapon really…regardless of the type of workout you are doing…whether it be strength training, a Hiit session, running or playing golf…if you are able to hold your body better using your core, you have the ability to recruit other muscles much more easily.
So think about working your stomach, glutes and back…working them all in a balanced way to achieve a super strong core.
Tip #2 - Focus on your Breath
Without knowing it, as you breath in and out, you are automatically working your core.
Imagine your core as a cylinder…on the top of this cylinder is your Diaphragm, a muscle sat under your ribs. On the bottom of the cylinder is your pelvic floor muscle.
Your Diaphragm and your Pelvic floor basically work in tandem with each other. As you exhale, your diaphragm rises, as does your pelvic floor. This action causes the abdominal wall to pull back.
When we go about our daily lives, we don’t consider these in and out breaths - its something that happens automatically in our bodies. But by taking some time to think about your breath…focussing on deep breaths in through your nose and big exiles through your mouth, you can work your diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles that bit harder. By working them harder, getting them to work better together resulting in a stronger ‘pull in’ of the abdominal wall.
A big exhale will result in the lift of the Pelvic Floor and the pull in of the abdominal wall…both considered essential to building a strong core.
Tip #3 - Add some Spinal Mobility into your workouts
The sole purpose of the core is to support the spine, so it makes perfect sense that you should add in some spinal mobility drills to your workouts.
By working the spine in all four directions - flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation, you are actively working your core to perform the very task its designed to do…you are making it fit for purpose.
Start kneeling and take one foot out in front. Check your hip is centred over your knee and your knee at the front is centred over your ankle.
With your arms out to the front, palms facing in, as you exhale open the alternate arm to the leg at the front out wide.
Lead with your shoulder to get maximum rotation of your thoracic spine. Take an inhale to bring your arm back to the front. Repeat on both sides, working towards 8 - 10 reps.
Start kneeling, with one knee under one hip and the other leg out to the side. Hands are placed behind your head.
Think about lifting up and out of your pelvis then as you exhale, move your body away from the out stretched leg. Take a breath in here then exhale to lift your torso back to centre. A great exercise to combine spinal mobility and strength for the obliques.
Repeat on both sides, building up to 8 - 10 reps. To progress this move you can take the hands off the back of the head , stretch your arms up to the ceiling, palms facing each other. Keep the action in your body but you likely find it more challenging to hold your body away from your leg with longer arms or a longer 'lever'.
Flexion and Extension
A great move for this is the cat and cow. Bring your self to a four point kneeling position, with hands underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips.
On an exhale, lead with your pelvis to tuck your tailbone, spine lifts up to the ceiling and your head drops down. Hold the position focussing on lifting up out of your shoulders and easing forward with your hips. This will naturally make you pull back in the abdominal wall.
On your next exhale, gain leading with your pelvis, start to lift it up and out at the back. Your spine will start to drop down towards the mat and your head will lift.
Work between these two points, moving with your breath on the exhale. Aim for 10 - 12 reps though each 'cat' to 'cow'
So there you go, three tips to think about to add into your workout routine to achieve a stronger core.
A strong core helps your daily activities become easier and can lead to an improved performance in other sports and exercise. Don't just settle for the obvious when looking to build strength in your core...think about working all of it, consider your breath and add some spinal mobility work into your workouts.