Building your core is more than working for that elusive six pack. The core is actually made up of more than half the muscles in your body and building it is the first step in maintaining balance in your everyday life – as well as in your exercise routines.
A strong core improves your posture, keeps you steady, alleviates back pain, and prevents injuries. Plus, you’ll feel a boost of confidence the more you work at it.
We’ve gathered 8 of the best ways to build your core to get you started.
1. Plank variations fire up the core efficiently.
Planks are notoriously tough even though they look simple. In addition to planking on your hands or elbows, there are many variations to build different parts of your core. Try side planks for your side body and extra instability. Or you can lift your legs one at a time, rock forward and back, or press up and down from your elbows to your hands.
2. TRX uses your body weight to work your core.
TRX uses a simple, suspension system to increase the effects of gravity simply by adjusting your own body weight. One of the benefits of TRX is that you’re always working your core since nearly every exercise adds that element of instability.
3. Pilates and yoga are both great for core strength.
These popular, full body workouts use tons of core. The basis of Pilates is that everything stems from your core by tucking the hip bones under for every exercise. And in yoga you’ll do lots of twisting and posing to help shape and strengthen your midsection.
4. Try different types of crunches.
Traditional crunches are ok (if you’re doing them right) but there are various types of crunches to help improve your overall core strength. Incorporate twisting crunches for your oblique muscles or attempt reverse crunches by lifting your lower body instead of your upper body to work your abs.
5. Workout using an exercise ball for core stability.
Incorporate an exercise ball to the workouts you’re already doing for an extra core blast. Plank with your feet on the unstable surface or do your squat sequence on a half ball. Challenging your stability is an effective way to work your entire core.
6. Use only one side of your body with dead bug and bird dog exercises.
These animal-inspired workouts challenge you to work with one side of your body at a time. Your core has to work harder to regain symmetry since you’re actively creating a lopsided effect. For both dead bug and bird dog, you’ll alternate extending your right leg and left arm for a great off-balance workout.
7. Proper breathing.
You wouldn’t think something as passive as breathing could have an effect on your core, but it does! According to Tom Bumgardner, MS, CSCS, most people breathe by lifting their rib cage when it’s better for your inner core to breathe from the lowest part of your belly.
8. Hold your core steady in everything you do.
Maintaining proper posture is both a cause and an effect of good core strength. The more you build your core, the better posture you’ll have. And the more mindful you are of holding your core and creating good posture in your daily activities, the stronger your core will be.