How to Build Your Core Muscles
Strengthening your core is a major, essential part of weight training. Many people think of their abdomen as being their core, but the abdomen is only a portion of that.
Your core muscles are also the muscles in your pelvis, back, and any other muscles found in the torso.
Why Strengthen Your Core?
Strengthening your core can help to improve your balance and stability, as well as improve your overall posture. Strong core muscles make every movement and activity in your life a little easier. Having a strong core is also a part of toning your stomach.
Here are some simple exercises that can help build your core muscles.
The plank is one of the basic building blocks of core strength. Lie on your stomach, with your forearms bent underneath you, as if you are going to army crawl forward.
Keeping your toes on the ground, raise yourself up, supporting yourself with your forearms and toes. Keep your torso completely straight. Your head should be facing the floor in a relaxed position. Hold for 10 seconds, slowly building up to longer times.
Once you've mastered the basic plank, you can throw in some variations, such as including leg lifts. While in the plank position, slowly raise one leg and hold. You can do the same with arm lifts, but be careful in switching your weight from both forearms to only one.
The Abdominal Crunch
The abdominal crunch is one of the easiest core strengthening exercises. While lying on your back, place your feet up against a wall, forming 90-degree angles at the knees and hips. In that position, raise your head and shoulders.
Cross your hands over your chest rather than locking them behind your head to avoid straining any muscles in your neck. Hold this position for three breaths, then release and repeat.
The Russian Twist
These twists work your intercostals, which are woefully underworked in most routine. To do the Russian twist, lie down on your back, knees up and feet resting on the ground.
Place one hand on top of the other, palms facing your feet. Point them toward the ceiling and twist at the torso, raising your shoulder blades off the mat and rolling your hands over to your left side and then your right. Lift your shoulder blades further up off the mat for a tougher workout.
The Plate Raise
If you have a weight plate, there are some excellent core-strengthening exercises you can do with it. For example, the plate raise. Make sure you keep your posture perfect during this exercise to avoid damaging anything.
Stand holding the plate in front of your hips. Slowly raise the plate until it is parallel with your shoulders, keeping your arms straight. Slowly lower the plate back down. Repeat 8-10 times to complete one set.
The Knee Lift
Stand up straight with your arms out to the side. Lift your right knee toward the ceiling as far as you can comfortably, then lower it. Keep your back straight and your shoulders back throughout the exercise. Repeat several times, and then repeat with the left leg.
The Hip Bridge
This yoga pose is excellent for strengthening your core. Lie flat on your back with your knees up and your feet on the floor. Lift your hips slowly until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold for five seconds, then lower your hips down and repeat.
For this exercise, it's recommended you place a rolled towel under your hips and head to help support them. Begin by lying on your stomach, arms stretch out in front of you. Tightening your abdominal muscles, raise your arms and legs up off the floor. Hold for three deep breaths, then release. If your core is not strong enough to raise both your arms and legs for three breaths' time, that's all right. Do just your arms or just your legs. You can even do one arm or leg at a time until you get better at it.
Among all the new poses and exercises, the plain old sit-up can also be very effective at strengthening your core muscles. Any way to choose to do your sit-ups, the important thing here is to be using your waist, not your neck to lift. To make sure you do it right, cross your arms over chest as you sit up, rather than locking your hands in place behind your neck, the same as if you were doing an abdominal crunch.
What Happens Next
If you incorporate these exercises into your regular workout, you're sure to see results very quickly. Working to tone your body can never be complete without toning your core as well.
These exercises are easy to do and have very satisfying effects. Good luck with achieving the body you want to have!