The term ‘core’ refers to all the muscles involved in the stabilisation of the human body. The core is made up the abdominis group (transverse and rectus), lower back (erector spinae made up of the iliocostalis, longissimus and spinalis muscles) and the muscles within the hip and pelvis.
The core works to create stability during everyday life while performing both simple and complex movements. Without a strong core, the body cannot move as one efficient unit, which can result in injuries.
Here are my top 5 exercises with step-by-step instructions that will help strengthen the core:
Hollow Body Hold (Gymnastics conditioning)
- 1. Lie flat on the ground
- 2. Create a posterior pelvic tilt (think hips into ribs), lower back flush to the ground.
- 3. Keep your arms outstretched overhead, legs straight off the ground and toes pointed.
- 4. To make it easier, tuck legs but keep arms overhead.
- 5. To make it harder, add a weight plate, holding it with either your hands or placing it on your legs.
Plank (Ol’ Faithful)
- 1. You forearms and toes should only be in contact with the ground.
- 2. Posterior pelvic tilt.
- 3. Keep a flat back, no piking with the hips, and maintain a straight line.
- 4. Hold for as long as possible.
- 5. To make it harder, add a weight plate onto your back.
Hanging Leg Raise (Getting fancy) – Slightly more advanced exercise
- 6. Hang from a straight bar, arms shoulder width apart.
- 7. Posterior pelvic tilt and start with a straight body.
- 8. Tuck legs into chest and back into straight position, try and minimise swing after each rep.
- 9. To make it easier, perform on parallel or dip bars.
- 10. To make it harder, straighten legs and try toes to bar or a hanging L-sit.
Butterfly Sit-ups (Open those hips up)
- 11. Lie flat on the ground.
- 12. Bend legs and keep soles of the feet together (similar to your conventional seated groin stretch).
- 13. Posterior pelvic tilt.
- 14. Arms straight and hands together.
- 15. Sit up so that your hands end up over your feet, try and minimise the use of momentum.
- 16. To make it harder, add a dumbbell between your hands.
- 17. Grab a box (preferably a wooden one), lie on your stomach with your hips just at the edge of the box to allow for full range of motion.
- 18. Posterior pelvic tilt, start with legs straight and toes touching the ground.
- 19. Maintaining that posterior pelvic tilt, use your lower back and glutes to bring your legs in-line with the rest of your body.
- 20. Make the reps slow and deliberate and hold for 2 seconds at the top of each rep.
Reverse Hyperextension (Can’t forget the back)
The core is the foundation for all movements within the gym and has a large impact on your strength production when it comes to heavier lifts. Without a strong core, other muscles will activate and take a majority of the load and cause a decrease in technique and thus, an increase in the risk of an injury. All it takes is 10 – 15 minutes of core work 3 – 4 times a week to create a stronger and more functional core.