Talking with someone who recently had a baby via C section this past weekend, the topic of core strength came up. She said “wow, I never realized how much I use my core. Even holding the baby, doing a load of laundry, or picking up groceries has been tough.” Of course, with her delivery, she requires more recovery time but it is always a great day when people truly understand first-hand the importance of a strong core. In my classes I love doing plank challenges or other challenging core work at the end of my class, leaving participants with a fresh understanding that core strength is key to all other movements, whether in the gym or in our daily lives.
What are the benefits of core training and strength?
- improved posture (definitely still working on this myself)
- improvement in other fitness related movements like squats and deadlift
- ability to complete functional daily activities including carrying groceries, lifting children, getting out of bed, standing up out of a chair or from the toilet, etc.
- balance – especially as this becomes more challenging with age
- more toned midsection – definitely not a reason for me given this list above, but nonetheless a perk if core work is done properly!
Back to Basics:
Every day I see new core moves, whether they are great movement patterns or not, on social media, in person at the gym, or through books and online resources. Some of these moves often require advanced core stability and strength to execute. Lots of people become excited to test these moves out, leaving the basics behind. Two exercises I like to begin with are the plank and deadbug. Below is an explanation of each. Watch out for next week’s post, a second instalment of core training, for video and picture explanations of the plank and deadbug.
This movement can be completed on the wall or on the ground depending on comfort level and experience. Once you determine where your plank will begin, decide if you want to complete it on your forearms or wrists. Regardless, we want to ensure the shoulders are completely overtop of the hands or elbows. In terms of feet, they can be together or apart for added support. If added support is required, the knees are a great alternate. Regardless of modification, the body should be in one straight line starting at the head down to the bottom point, either knees or toes. To avoid sagging hips, lift the hips and feel like they are being tucked under.
If you are one of those people who find planks boring, spice things up! Add weight, lift an arm or a leg, and be creative.
*Stay tuned for a later post about my favourite plank variations*.
The deadbug is completed lying on your back. Relax the shoulders and pull the belly button into the spine. Feel as though the back and front of the core is coming together instead of sucking up and holding in your breath. From there, the gap between your back and the ground should be eliminated and the back should remain on the ground for the duration of the movement. From here, make an upside down table top with your hands straight up in the air in line with your chest, your legs bent at the knees, making a 90 degree angle, and feet flexed with your toes pointing straight up. Try holding this position. Then, move opposite arm and leg out and in while keeping low back flat. Try adding light weights in hands for challenge.
Next time you go to deadlift, or even pick up your groceries, take note of how your core muscles are activating. It may help you to become aware of a strength imbalance in your body, improve your posture, or get you to a personal best in your favourite lift.
Be fierce. Be strong. Be vibrant.
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