Obtaining a stronger core doesn’t have to be complicated or require a lot of time, but it does have to be balanced. Try adding these 4 exercises into your training routine and feel the difference they will make!
An important part of our core to work are the muscles that run up and down our spine called the erector spinae. Keeping these muscles strong will provide balance for the muscles we are strengthening in the front of our bodies and help improve and maintain posture.
Start by lying face down and alternately lift the opposite arm and leg. You can make this easier by always keeping one arm and leg on the mat, and keeping your head down or turned to the side. To progress hold each lift for 5 sec. Try to keep your pelvis in neutral, or do a slight posterior tilt to protect your back.
2. Side Plank
This exercise targets our obliques. You can do this from your knees or feet, and add all kinds of variations as you get stronger. Start by lying on your side, then push up in a straight line. Remember to push up and out from the forearm while drawing the shoulder down from the ear, creating length at the neck. Hold this for as many seconds as you can. To make this harder lift the top leg up and hold parallel to the floor.
3. Clam Shell
The strongest muscles on your body are your glutes – that’s your butt muscles. When they’re working the way they should, they’re a powerhouse team that help stabilize and put driving power into just about any athletic movement. When they’re not functioning well, it’s a recipe for weakness, back pain, and muscle imbalance. They need to be able to “fire up” when called upon.
Most beginners have glutes that are not engaging to their fullest. For some people, the glutes might not be working well, for others their glutes might not be engaging at all. When this happens, your hip flexors take over, hamstrings become tight, and there’s a lot of pressure put onto the lower back. This makes just about any lower body exercise difficult, and it can further the problem of weak glutes rather than make it better.
This is where clam shells come into play. They’re a simple exercise that yield big results in getting the glutes activated again. Lie on your side with your knees drawn together out front at about 45 degrees. Keeping your feet together, lift the top knee up, while externally rotating the hip. Hold for sec. Super important here to engage the core muscles, and to not rock back and forth tipping the pelvis. To make this harder, lift the feet off the ground.
4. Single Leg Lift & Lower
Another excellent core strength and trunk stabilizing exercise. Not only do they improve core conditioning, they also help build stability in the hips and trunk. This exercise targets our transverse abdominals otherwise known as the TVA.
Start by lying on your back, arms relaxed at your side with one knee bent and the other leg extended. Pelvis in neutral position or a slight imprint. Think about spreading your abdominals out flat and pulling in through the belly button to engage your core. While lifting and lowering one leg, maintain neutral spine or a slight imprint. You will be working against the pull of the leg that will try to tip your pelvis. To make this harder take the bent leg from the floor and hold it up in a table top position. Repeat with the other leg.
Perform each exercise back to back for the prescribed time and reps:
- Swimming- 5-second holds, 10-15 reps per side
- Side Plank- 10-second holds, continuing to build up seconds each week
- Clam Shells – 5-second holds, 10 reps per side
- Single Leg Lift & Lower, 10-15 reps per leg
Remember, take it slow and you’ll lay the foundation for effective movement for life.