A strong core is an invaluable asset. For starters, a strong and stable midsection can give you better balance and better posture, and it can even help reduce back pain. Every move you make, both in daily life and during a workout, will be easier if your core is showing up and doing its job. It really is the centre of all your movement.
Your core is made up of many muscles, including your rectus abdominis (what you think of when you think "abs"), transverse abdominis (the deepest internal core muscle that wraps around your sides and spine), erector spinae (a set of muscles in your lower back), and the internal and external obliques (the muscles on the sides of your abdomen). Since various combinations of these muscles are involved in so many different exercises, you don't have to be doing things that target one specific area, like sit-ups, to challenge these muscles. In fact, some of the best, most efficient core exercises are ones that work the entire muscle group at once. (This also helps keep the muscles balanced, which is important for improving performance and avoiding injury.)
When it comes down to it, there are a million and one ways to work your core. So how can you decide what's best? Or just where to even start?
Here's 3 simple core exercises to try. They use only your body weight, so you can easily add them into your workout routine whether you're at home, in a gym, or travelling.
Mountain Climbers are a killer exercise that get your heart rate up fast while also firing nearly every muscle group in the body—deltoids, biceps, triceps, chest, obliques, abdominals, quads, hamstrings and hip abductors. It’s truly a fully body workout!
Learning how to do Mountain Climbers will give you that magic combination of strength training, cardio and core strength all rolled into one! This type of total body exercise gets you the most bang for your buck when it comes to working out. How?
How to Do Mountain Climbers
1. Start in a plank position with arms and legs long. Beginning in a solid plank is the key to proper form and good results in the Mountain Climber. At its heart, the Mountain Climber is a form of plank. Keep your abs pulled in and your body straight. Squeeze your glutes and pull your shoulders away from your ears.
2. Pull your right knee into your chest. As the knee draws to the chest, pull your abs in even tighter to be sure your body doesn’t sag or come out of its plank position.
3. Quickly switch and pull the left knee in. At the same time you push your right leg back, pull your left knee in to the chest using the same form.
4. Continue to switch knees. Pull the knees in right, left, right, left—always switching simultaneously so that you are using a “running” motion. As you begin to move more quickly be in constant awareness of your body position and be sure to keep a straight line in your spine and don’t let your head droop. Core body stability is crucial.
Leg Drops are an exercise that teaches the body to stay stable and keep from moving while your legs are lifting and lowering. In the meantime, your upper body has a chance to relax and your neck stays out of the picture. Often in abdominal work the upper body has to flex up and down causing the neck to get heavy and sometimes sore. This move eliminates that problem and keeps your focus on the lower abs that are responsible for flattening your belly and strengthening your back. If you learn how to do leg drops, you are adding a new core move that digs into the muscles you most want to strengthen.
How to Do Leg Drops
1) Start lying on your back with both legs long towards the ceiling.
2) Keep the abs tight as you lower one leg a few inches off the floor, then switch legs.
3) The movement is slow as you work the abdominals. Never go so low with your legs that your back pops off the mat.
If you find single leg drops super easy - progress to a double leg drop. Start with dropping the legs half way. Over time you will be able to control the move lower down to the mat. - How low can you go?!
Superman is an exercise that strengthens the muscles on your back side, especially your low back. It also helps strengthen and core muscles and teaches your body to stabilise. During this exercise you learn how to pull the muscles of the core in so tightly that you are stable in the middle despite the fact that your arms and legs are lifting up and down. If you learn how to do Superman you will likely feel sore in your lower back the next day. Don’t be concerned. The lower back muscles are underused in our workout life. It is important that strengthening your core includes not just your abdominals, but also your lower back. However, during this exercise it is important to pull your abdominals in for stability.