How Important Are Core Exercises?
May 11, 2013
A strong core cannot be overemphasized as it is necessary to correctly perform most strength training routines. Without good core development, there are many daily activities we take for granted that are compromised. A strong core is necessary for doing everyday tasks, like lifting a 25 pound baby or for lifting the grocery bag. The best core exercises help prevent chronic or acute back problems and help you maintain good posture. To perform some athletic moves, the absence of a good core would render you almost useless or very ineffective. Kicking or throwing a punch, for instance, both require a strong well-developed core.
There are many methods you can use to vary your core exercise and avoid getting bored. Strengthening your core will allow you to ably transfer power from the lower to the upper body, and vice versa. A strong core will also allow you to keep the best body alignment with whatever you’re doing, which in turn reduces the total effort you have to exert. There is a strong misconception out there that the core pertains to your abdominals only. The core includes the upper back region, your obliques, and the glutes. Core exercises for men and core exercise for women are very similar and can be applied to both sexes. Here is a compiled list of 5 core exercises that are lifted from two authorities in both men’s and women’s fitness: AskMen and Shape
The Plank from AskMen
“The plank works your entire core and upper- and lower-body muscles. Lie down on your stomach. Lift your body off the floor with your forearms (elbows at 90° degrees) and your toes. Keep your body in a straight position (without arching your back) and hold for 30 seconds to one minute. Lift one foot in the air for added difficulty”.
For such a passive exercise, the plank is an easy favorite for any routine. Beginner core exercises almost always have the plank, since it is relatively easy to do, but yields great results.
Standing Pelvic Tilt from Shape
“Start standing with feet hip-width apart, place your hands on your hips, and take a deep breath in. As you exhale, brace your belly button into your spine, and tilt your pelvis up. Think of scooping your abdominals further into your back as you tuck the pelvis under. Next, push your tailbone behind you, allowing your lower back to arch but keep your abs drawn in, as you inhale again. That’s one rep. Repeat this four times in total”.
Guys might feel like sissies doing this pelvic move, but it is a great workout for an often neglected part of the body. There aren’t many moves that can work your lower abs and lower back the way the standing pelvic tilt can.
Clam Crunch (20 reps) from Shape
“Lie down on your back, with both knees bent and together, with your hands behind your head, elbows bent out the sides. Draw your abdominals into your back and lift both feet off the ground, keeping knees bent and pressed together. Lift your head and shoulders up off the floor, hands still behind head, elbows out to the sides. As you crunch forward, open both knees out to the sides, keeping the blades of your feet touching, so that your legs resemble a diamond shape at the top of your crunch. Slowly lower head back to the floor, and bring knees back together as your lower feet towards the ground – stopping your legs just before the feet touch the ground. That’s one rep. Repeat this 20 times”.
The crunch isolates the abdominals, unlike the old sit-up we used to do that involve more hip flexor movement. The clam crunch steps up the difficulty level of the standard crunch by lifting the legs off the ground and having to spread them also as you bend your upper torso upward. This little tweak makes it both an upper and lower abs killer.
Supermans With A Twist from AskMen
“Perform a standard Superman: Lie down on your stomach and raise your torso off the floor with your arms extended in front of you (beginners may place their hands behind their head). Here’s the twist: At the top of the raise, twist to one side, return to the center and twist to the other side. Lower your torso to the ground to complete one rep. Hold a two- to five-pound weight for a more advanced movement”.
There is very little movement in the superman, maybe just a few inches as you lift your torso off the floor, but this move is a guaranteed back exercise to tire you out. The added twisting from side to side is sure to up the intensity several notches.
Lying Windmills from AskMen
“This exercise is one of the most challenging. Lie on your back with your arms extended and raise your legs until they are perpendicular to the floor. Slowly lower your legs to the side as low as you can while maintaining complete shoulder and back contact with the floor. Bring your legs back up to center and lower them to the other side”.
This is an exercise that will have your lower abs burning. It gives your obliques an intense workout too. The key to this exercise is to do the movement slowly, feeling the burn on your abs. A variation to this move is to have a bend at the knees to reduce the difficulty. Here is a video of the move (with the fitness model adding a tweak squeezing a ball between the feet).
Core exercises can be fun, and they yield a lot of real world applications. Don’t forget to give time to do core exercise routines, and enjoy not only good posture, great overall strength, but a pain free back as well.