There’s more to core strength than situps, crunches and six-pack abs. It all starts with the complex series of muscle groups in the lower torso and pelvis that are essential for balance, strength, flexibility and stability. How do you get the most from this important area of the body? Here are three straightforward tips to maximize your core.
Breathe for Strength
An activity as basic as breathing can be used to engage deeper core muscles. Lie on your back and bend your knees, placing one hand on your belly and the other beneath your lower spine. As you breathe in through the nose, feel your belly rise gently. On the out breath, let the belly fall and pull inward. Throughout the exercise, the pressure on the hand under your back shouldn’t change. This activity engages your transverse abdominis (TA) muscle located deep in the abdomen.
Perfect Your Plank
Protecting your spine requires strong trunk and pelvis muscles. To develop those, use the breathing technique discussed above in combination with a plank. Begin face down on your hands and knees and push yourself onto your toes and forearms to form a straight line with your body. Breathe steadily and focus on maintaining a neutral spine. Aim to stay in this position for one full minute.
Engage as You Lift
Many believe toned abs require loads of situps since the exercise primarily works the rectus abdominus, the abdominal muscle responsible for the chiseled six-pack look. But this muscle is superficial in comparison to the deeper TA and obliques. To activate these deeper muscles in daily activities like carrying groceries, breathe in as you prepare to lift. Then as you lift, breathe out through your mouth, draw the belly to the spine and tighten your abdominal muscles. Be sure to follow proper lifting techniques to avoid injury.