Call me crazy, but my favorite workout day – by far – is any day that works my core. Trust me, it wasn’t always so. In fact, there was this one time about 4 months after I had my daughter that I decided to join a new gym and went for a fitness assessment with a trainer. Mind you, I was not in shape. Like, at all. He asked me to do a forward lunge and I fell flat on my face. He asked me to do a backwards lunge, and down I went. My core was shot and I’m sure he was thinking that it was a miracle I was even upright to walk. Looking back now, it makes me laugh – a lot, but at the time, I thought there was no hope in ever gaining back my core muscles. And that was a sad, scary thought.
Why Core Muscles Matter
You see, core muscles are crucial for balance and stability. Think of them as the, well, support system and energy transfer station for your body. The core muscles encompass more than just the abs you see on the outside, they’re also the deep interior muscles like the transverse abdominals and pelvic floor. Just like the Earth’s core, they help hold everything together and provide stability. They also protect your lower back and give you strength to perform daily tasks. Strength leads to stability.
Now, imagine those muscles not being at the top of their game. Weak core muscles can lead to a decrease in balance and stability. With a lack of strength in your core, your odds of lower back strain and injury is even greater than it normally would be. Weakness leads to wobbliness. And no one’s got time for that.
How to Increase Core Strength
When I talk about core strength, I am not talking about getting a six pack of ab muscles or achieving a teeny tiny waist line. I’m talking about increasing the strength of the muscles within your core so that your body can function more efficiently and safely. I want you to think about those muscles that you don’t see and work those. I want you to gain strength, endurance, flexibility, motor control, and function. Six-packs are lovely, but being able to pick up your toddler without hurting yourself is even more so.
Stop thinking of core strength as the ability to do a lot of sit-ups and look at it as one of the most, if not the most important aspect of fitness. Because you know all of those other fitness goals you have? If you don’t have a strong core, you’re not going to be able to achieve them.
Exercises to Build a Strong Core
So, what should you do to strengthen your core? Here are some ideas:
Planks (Straight arm or Forearm) and Side Planks
Dynamic Bird Dogs
After you’ve consulted with your doctor and are assured that you’re fit for exercise, you can give the exercises a try with about 12 reps per exercise (1 minute hold for the planks) and repeat the set twice. You’ll feel those muscles working and, with time, you’ll have a super strong, stable core that’s going to provide you with the control and endurance that you need to do the things you want. Go for it!