Most people think of tight, tough and sculpted abs when referring to the core. However, you don't really need to have perfectly-toned abs to gain core strength.
The strength of your body illuminates from three muscle areas that consist of the core, the abdominal muscles (abs) and the muscle layers protecting and supporting your spine. So, if you want to build up your core, you are essentially strengthening these muscle groups so you can walk and stand with balance, perform activities better and prevent back pain. Yoga is an effective way to build strength and flexibility.
Below are some tips on how to strengthen your core.
1. Put in the effort.
Building up your core takes time but it will be worth investing in this effort for the sake of your health and well-being. Most of the things you do on a daily basis involve the use of your core. So, if your core is weak, you may be prone to develop chronic back pain and have less energy.
To prevent back pain and get more energy, dedicate at least 20 minutes every day to do core-strengthening exercises. If you have more time and resources, enlist in a gym or a fitness studio membership to pour in more hours of either Pilates, yoga or yogalates.
2. Consider incorporating three basic routines in your everyday exercises.
Canadian spine biomechanics expert Dr. Stuart McGill recommended in his book "Low Back Disorders: Evidence Based Prevention and Rehabilitation" that the three most effective core-strengthening exercises that anyone can do include the cat and camel curl-up, bird dog and side bride. So, as much as possible do these low-intensity workouts daily, even if you don't have time to go to the gym.
Cat and Camel Curl-Up: This exercise involves flexing and extending your torso, specifically the thoracic spine, while you are positioned with your hands and knees to the floor, like a cat. The movement also entails slowly flexing your back upwards, like a camel. This is not a stretching exercise, rather, the movement will reinforce your core.
Next, lie on the floor and place your hands under your spine to slightly raise the back. Then flex one knee and keep the other leg straight as you raise your shoulders and head off the floor. Hold this position for eight seconds and repeat with other the next leg.
Bird Dog: The bird dog also entails you to set yourself on all fours on the floor, like a dog. Then with your left arms and right knees firm for support and balance, stretch your right arms forward and your left legs backward. Hold this position for eight seconds then alternate and repeat. Keep the stretched arms and legs on the level. This routine will deliver endurance to your core.
Side Bridge: Doing the side bridge activates your core's muscles. It's done like a side push-up but you use your elbows to support yourself and your knees to roll or twist from side to side. If you feel a lot stronger, you can use your feet instead of your knees when Twisting.
3. Mix up your routines.
Add variety in your exercises to keep your muscles engaged. You can do more challenging movements by using suspension trainers, a Swiss ball and other tools when you are performing your basic routines. This is why even though you can exercise at home, it's still a good idea to enlist in a gym or fitness studio because you can have a variety of workouts by joining more exercise classes.
If you have an active lifestyle or enjoy playing sport, you need to have more dynamic routines. You also must pick exercises that mimic what you do when you play the sport so to keep your core and spine stabilized.