“Core Strength”… You’ve seen these words on billboards advertising gym memberships, on the latest health-trend manifestos, and on the front page of your fitness magazine. You’ve even heard your close friends and family members chatting about the value of core strength. And yet, you’re not really sure what it is, why it’s important, or why it should even matter to you. The good news is, this post is about to enlighten you. We’re going to give you the ins-and-outs of core strength, its necessity, and what it really means for your health.
For most of us, the idea of core strength is firmly rooted in an image of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger – 6-packs and plenty of muscle. Sure, this is some of what it means to have good core strength, but thankfully, having a strong core doesn’t mean we have to become body builders. Core strength is about a lot more than washboard abs – it’s about strong muscles in your torso, back, and upper legs, that is, muscles that are robust enough to support and maintain a healthy spine and bone structure. So, while it’s an added bonus to develop a great midriff, having strong core muscles contributes to your overall health – not just appearance – in a myriad of ways.
Think about this for a second: have you ever had back pain or suffered from pelvic pain? This type of discomfort may well have to do with weakness in your core muscles. Because these muscles ensure the stability and mobility of the joints and spinal structure, weakness or stiffness may disrupt optimal body function, thereby leading to pain which can sometimes be chronic. Not only that, but strong core muscles actually prevent injury. Why? Because they strengthen and support the skeletal structure, thereby reducing the risk of damage. By contrast, weak core muscles may have a large impact on posture, pelvic health, possible injury, athletic ability, energy, and endurance, not to mention mobility and flexibility.
It’s clear, then, that core strength is integral to health, but as with most things in life, it’s important to understand the journey is just as important as the result. Some people jump straight into a vigorous, damaging core-strength routine, never consulting a professional and just assuming that “harder and faster” means “better”. Sadly, most of these people do more harm than good, and far from strengthening their core muscles, their overambitious routines actually cause overcompensation, misalignment, stress, and ultimately, pain. It is absolutely essential that core strength training be undertaken with a solid understanding of your body, your particular set of needs, and your personal parameters.
All in all, though, having strong core muscles is both essential in the prevention of injury and in the elimination of various forms of pain. That having been said, we understand that getting into a habit of developing strong core muscles is, perhaps, a little easier said than done. Some people don’t have time for hours in the gym, and others might be daunted by the idea of sit-ups or crunches. Don’t worry – there are safe, effective, and easy ways of increasing your core strength and alleviating your pain, right now. Take a look:
Core Strength Exercises
Remember, start moderately and work your way up to more intense routines. Muscles take time to strengthen, so give them the space they need to build in a strong and lasting manner – in other words, avoid injuries by practicing patience.
- Walk sideways and backwards down your hallways or outside. Sideways engages the hip girdle, pelvic floor, and gluteals. Backwards recruits the abdominals.
- Balloon: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth into the balloon. Hold your breath for 3 counts then inhale through your nose and do not allow air from the balloon escape into your mouth.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and place a big ball in your lap. Cross your wrists and place the hands on the ball. Exhale and press your hands into the ball. Think of bringing your ribs towards the pelvis and the pelvis towards the ribs so they “meet” at the belly button. Progress to pressing with just 1 hand to get the obliques.
- Dead bug: Lie on your back and bring your legs up to table top one at a time. Then extend them up to the ceiling and bring both your arms to the ceiling. Reach and lower the left leg with the right arm ( arm is overhead) then switch sides. Only go as low as the back stays down on the floor and the pelvis is level.
- Plank: Lengthen your body as you place your hands on the floor reach the feet out behind you, like you are getting ready to do a push-up. Hold that position for a set period of time. This exercise is advanced. Be sure to really engage the lower abdominals so the lower back does not sag and engage the shoulder blade muscles so the upper back does not hump. You may want to wait doing the planks until you are much stronger.
- Deadlifts: Stand with your feet a hip distance apart. Bend from the hips, keeping the sternum lifted, and stick the buttocks out as though you are getting ready to sit in a chair. Stand up by bringing the buttocks forward.
- Side Plank: This is a variation on the “plank” exercise. Instead, lie on your side and bend your elbow to lift the upper body off the floor. The elbow and shoulder should be in the same plane. Then lift your ribs towards the ceiling and lengthen out the top of the head. Lift the hips off the floor.
- Pilates: This is a great form of exercise that targets your core, and a wonderful way to increase both your strength and flexibility. Why not join a class? Or better yet, attend one-on-one 1 hour sessions to get you going. We offer both, classes and individual sessions, here at Wellness Rehabilitation Inc. Click here to see how we can help you.
Physical therapy is by far the best, most effective, safest, and fastest way of increasing your core strength and eradicating pain. A hands-on, professional therapist will not only alleviate your pain by treating the root cause of the problem, but will ensure that you maintain a pain-free life by giving you the tools to do so. In other words, physical therapy offers you tailor-made exercises designed to eradicate your pain, strengthen your core, and help you enjoy and maintain the life you deserve. Physical therapy isn’t a temporary solution, rather, it is a permanent and safe answer to your pain: by giving you professional, effective, customized, life-changing care, physical therapy is the best, most effective way to increase core strength and help you live the life you were meant to.
Don’t underestimate the value of core strength both in the eradication of pain and in the maintenance of a pain-free life. Click here to schedule a Free 20 minute Discovery call for more information about how we can help you.
To Your Health,