How should I exercise my core muscles?

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Dr. Vonda Wright, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Here are some exercises for the core muscles:

Plank: Core
  1. Get into a push-up position but bend your elbows and place weight on your forearms instead of your hands.
  2. Lower your buttocks until your back is flat and your body is in a straight line from ankles to shoulders. Engage your core by pulling your navel toward your spine and pushing down as if you were going to be punched in the gut. Make sure your butt is not sticking up or sinking down.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds and work up to two minutes. Remember to breathe.
Side Plank: Oblique core
  1. Lie on your side and raise up onto your elbow. Place your weight on your forearm and the side of your lower foot. Engage your core and squeeze your butt.
  2. Raise your trunk off the floor and lower your buttocks until your body is a straight line from ankles to shoulders. Make sure your butt is not sticking up or sinking down. Your shoulder should be directly over your elbow.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds and work up to two minutes. Remember to breathe.
Mountain Climber: Core stability for spine support, abdominal strength
  1. Engage your core and assume a push-up position with your arms straight and your body forming a straight line from shoulders to ankles.
  2. Lift your right foot off the floor and bring your knee toward the chest as far as you can. Keep your back straight.
  3. Return to the starting position and switch legs.
  4. Alternate back and forth for 45 seconds.
Oblique Chop: Oblique core
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, back straight, and core engaged.
  2. Hold a kettle bell or free weight in both hands next to the right shoulder. (The oblique chop can also be performed without weights.)
  3. Bring the kettle bell across the front of your body to the outside of your left knee in a controlled manner by contracting your left oblique muscles.
  4. Pause in this position, bring the kettle bell up to the left shoulder in a standing position, and repeat to the right knee.
  5. Perform for 45 seconds.
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The objective of core training is to strengthen the deep and superficial muscles that stabilize, align, and move the trunk of the body, especially the abdominals and muscles of the back. Core training is commonly incorporated into exercise programs for clients at health clubs to help achieve goals ranging from a flatter midsection to a stronger lower back. A weak core is a fundamental problem inherent to inefficient movement that may lead to predictable patterns of injury.  

A comprehensive core training program should be systematic, progressive, and functional. A core training program should regularly manipulate plane of motion, range of motion, body position, amount of control, and speed of execution. The drawing-in maneuver, a maneuver used to recruit the local core stabilizers by drawing the navel in toward the spine and bracing,  which occurs when you have contracted both the abdominal, lower back, and buttock muscles at the same time are great ways to initiate the core muscles. Perform these maneuvers when performing exercise to help engage the core.  Other great core exercises include the ball crunch, prone iso-abs, marching, and ball bridges.  

The objective of core training is to strengthen the deep and superficial muscles that stabilize, align, and move the trunk of the body, especially the abdominals and muscles of the back. Core training is commonly incorporated into exercise programs for clients at health clubs to help achieve goals ranging from a flatter midsection to a stronger lower back. A weak core is a fundamental problem inherent to inefficient movement that may lead to predictable patterns of injury.  

A comprehensive core training program should be systematic, progressive, and functional. A core training program should regularly manipulate plane of motion, range of motion, body position, amount of control, and speed of execution. The drawing-in maneuver, a maneuver used to recruit the local core stabilizers by drawing the navel in toward the spine and bracing,  which occurs when you have contracted both the abdominal, lower back, and buttock muscles at the same time are great ways to initiate the core muscles. Perform these maneuvers when performing exercise to help engage the core.  Other great core exercises include the ball crunch, prone iso-abs, marching, and ball bridges.  

The best way to exercise, and strengthen one’s core a muscle is to make sure to hold the contraction at least two to three seconds when you squeeze the core muscles together. Another rule for training the core is to add resistance to the exercise with proper range of motion, for example you want to feel the abs, and core contracting, not pressure in your lower back, or neck etc. One should ask an Elite fitness professional if you have further questions about proper technique.

Grant Cooper, MD
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
To exercise your core muscles, with your knees bent at a 45 degree angle and your feet flat on the ground, contract your gluteal and abdominal muscles and raise your abdomen and buttocks off the ground so that your body is straight from your chest to your knees. This is an excellent exercise for your core muscles as well as your glutes. Concentrate on keeping your abdominals and gluteal muscles contracted and tight at all times during the exercise. It may help to think of driving your heels into the ground. (Some people call this a bridge.) Hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.