What’s so amazing about working out? Well, if you want to look fab, you need to sweat it out!
Toning and strengthening all the muscles of your body is important, but doing so for your core muscles has special significance. Your core is the central part of your body, mainly the mid-lower areas consisting of your abdominal muscles as well as mid and lower back muscles.
Why is the core so important? Well, it is your centre of gravity, the reason you walk and stand tall! If your core isn’t strong, your overall balance is affected and this makes you prone to falls and other injuries. A strong core also leads to proper form and posture, which in turn leads to better functioning of your joints. An added bonus is that your clothes fit much better!
The main muscles of the core are:
- External Abdominal Oblique – These are the muscles seen pointing diagonally downwards from either side. They are located on the side and front of the abdomen.
- Internal Abdominal Oblique – These muscles are under the external abdominal oblique, but point in the opposite direction.
- Rectus Abdominis – These are the muscles that correspond to the popularly known ‘six pack’, seen as those squarish parts in the middle. They are located along the front of the abdomen.
- Transverse Abdominis – These are the deepest muscles, behind the oblique muscles and around the spine.
Top 10 Core Strengthening Exercises:
Here are 10 super effective and equipment free core muscle strengthening exercises to work all those muscles!
1. Sit Ups:
- Lie on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, arms by the side, palms on the floor.
- Cross your arms across your chest so that they are resting on opposite shoulders. Alternatively, you can place them behind your head, but this might lead to wrong form if you put pressure on your neck instead of your abs.
- Pull your navel into your spine. Lifting your head slightly off the ground, use your shoulders to lift your upper body off the floor till you are upright.
- Hold for a few seconds and go back to starting position, but with the back at a slight curve, rather than flat on the ground.
2. Bicycle Crunch:
- Lie flat on the floor, arms by your side.
- Place your hands behind your head. Raise your head and right knee. Touch your left elbow to your right knee.
- Feel the crunch deep inside your core. Now, alternate with your right elbow and left knee.
- Do the repetitions in a continuous motion, as if you were cycling. Your shoulders and head will be up all the time and your abs will remain engaged.
3. V Sit:
- Use a comfortable mat for this exercise. Lie flat on your back with your arms stretched out above your head.
- Curl in at your waist and bring up your legs and upper body at the same time.
- Bring your hands forward and keep them stretched towards your legs.
- Extend your legs straight so that your body now forms a ‘V’ shape, with your sit bones anchoring your position on the floor. Keep your back straight.
- If extending your legs is too hard, keep your knees bent so that your calves are parallel to the floor.
4. Push Up:
- Get down on the floor on all fours. Extend your feet backwards till they are fully extended and resting on your toes.
- Keep your hands firmly planted on the floor on either side of you, slightly wider than your shoulders.
- Your arms and legs should be straight. Your body should be in a straight line from head to heel.
- Inhale, pulling in your navel and bend your elbows out to 90 degrees and no more, while lowering yourself to the floor. Keep your body straight throughout. Keep the pressure in the outside of your palms.
- Exhale and raise yourself to starting position. Do more repetitions at a slow steady pace, without compromising on form.
- If this is too hard, you can do modified versions of this exercise. One is by resting your palms on a bench or table instead of the floor. Another is by resting on your knees instead of your toes.
- Get into a push up position as described above, with hands and toes planted on the floor and body in a straight line from head to heel.
- Lower yourself on the floor and rest on your forearms, keeping your elbows right under your shoulders.
- Maintain a straight line in your back and legs till your heels.
- Engage your abs and squeeze your glutes to prevent any sagging in your middle.
- Keep your fists balled up and your eyes on the floor in front of you. Avoid any strain on your head and neck.
- Hold for as long as you can without compromising on form.
6. Side Plank:
- Lie on your left side, right leg directly over left leg and left arm outstretched above your head. Place right hand on the floor in front of your chest.
- Raise your body, bringing your left arm in to support your upper body. Keep your left elbow directly under your left shoulder, left forearm resting on the floor, palm down.
- Lift your hips up, placing right hand on right hip. There should be a straight line from head to heel.
- Use your abs and glueal muscles to hold the position straight for as long as you can.
- Lie face down on the floor with legs straight and arms stretched out overhead.
- Keep a small rolled up towel under your hips and head for added support.
- Engaging your core, lift your arms and chest off the floor.
- Once your upper body is steady, lift legs off the floor as comfortably as you can, keeping a slight curve in your back.
- Hold the position for a minute.Come back to starting position and do a few reps. Or else, lift the right arm and left leg in one rep and alternate in the next.
- Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor and arms by your side, palms down.
- Bring your heels as close to your buttocks as you can.
- Keeping the pressure in your feet, lift your hips as high as you can, pulling in your navel as you do so. Pull your shoulders into the floor. Keep your head and neck strain free.
- Hold the position for a minute and go back to starting position, lowering yourself slowly onto the floor. This is another great core strengthening workout.
9. Bird Dog:
- Get down on all fours with knees hip width apart and palms shoulder width apart, firmly planted on the floor.
- Keep a 90 degree angle in your knees and shoulders. Keep core and back relaxed and in a natural position.
- Tighten your abs and extend your right leg back till it is completely straight and in line with your back.
- Extend left arm forward till it is completely straight and in line with your back and extended leg. Keep your eyes on the floor.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds and return to starting position. Repeat with opposite arm and leg.
- Always maintain a straight line in knee and elbow and a 90 degree angle with the knee and shoulder of the un-extended arm and leg.
10. Rocking Horse:
- Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest and hold them with your arms around your shins.
- Round your back slightly and rock backward, starting the motion you’re your core and pulling your knees closer towards your chest. Lift your hips off the floor as you roll back.
- Roll forwards, again initiating the movement from your core muscles, and moving your knees slightly away from your chest, so that your back rolls up from the floor. Rock back and forth this way 10 times.
- Since the rocking motion is going to use your hips as the central point, make sure to use a padded surface.
- Remember to initiate the movement from your core and not your neck or shoulders.
It is really important to maintain correct posture in all these core strength exercises, or else you’ll end up hurting your back or neck rather than strengthening your core! In all of them, you should feel a tension or burn in your core muscles. That’s when you know you’re doing it right. As you keep working out, you’ll have to hold the poses longer or do more repetitions to get that burn. Although it means more work, it also means one more thing – that you’re getting stronger and leaner, which is worth the extra effort!
Did you find this article helpful? Did you ever include these core strengthening exercises in your fitness schedule? Do share your views with us in the comments section below.
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