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How and Why You Need to Focus on Building Your Core ... and Six Top Core-Building Exercises

Your body has 29 core muscles, located mostly in your back, abdomen, and pelvis, that work to give you a stable center of gravity. Spanning from your pelvis to the base of your rib cage, your core muscles are what help you:

Exercise programs

Exercise programs such as pilates and yoga are great for strengthening your core muscles.

  • Control movements

  • Protect and support your back

  • Gain greater balance and stability

Your core muscles are incredibly important because they provide the foundation for movement throughout your entire body. Strengthening your core muscles means that your spine will be supported and your body less prone to injury during sports activities and also during daily life.

Meanwhile, weak core muscles, according to the Mayo Clinic, can put you at risk of poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries.

Strengthen Your Core Muscles with These Top Exercises

There are multiple ways to build your core strength, one of them being exercise programs such as pilates and yoga. Both of these methods work the muscles of the abdomen, lower back and buttocks to create flexibility and strength.

Another option is to focus on the individual exercises below, which will get your core muscles working together. The key to developing core strength, whether through pilates, yoga or individual exercises, is to make sure your core muscles are working together (rather than isolating each muscle group).

If you are new to strength training, you may want to seek the help of a personal trainer or fitness expert, who can show you how to properly position and align your body to get the maximum benefit.

The key to strengthening your core muscles is to perform exercises that get all the muscles working together (such as the ones below). Isolating the muscle groups will not have as beneficial of an effect.

1. Bridge

Lie on your back with your knees bent (feet on the floor). Contract your abdominal muscles and raise your hips off the floor, holding the position for five to eight seconds. Slowly lower your hips to the floor, then repeat the move. For a more advanced bridge, try extending one knee, then the other, while in the bridge position.

2. Quadruped

Get on your hands and knees, keeping your hands below your shoulders and your head and neck aligned with your back. Contract your core muscles, then raise one arm off the floor and reach ahead. Return the arm to the floor, then repeat with the opposite arm and each leg. For a challenge, raise one arm and the opposite leg at the same time, then repeat with the other side.

3. Plank

Lie on your stomach, resting on your forearms with your palms facing down. Raise off the floor so you are resting on your elbows and toes. Keeping your back flat, contract your core muscles and hold for 10 seconds, then lower yourself to the floor and repeat. For a challenge, try stretching out one arm or leg at a time, or reaching out an arm and opposite leg at the same time.

4. Side Plank

Lie on your left side, then raise your body onto your left forearm, keeping your shoulders, hips and knees aligned. Rest your right arm on your side. Hold the position for 10 seconds, then repeat on the right side. For a more advanced side plank, raise onto your left hand with your hips coming off the floor and extend your right hand toward the ceiling.

5. Abdominal Press (the Push Away)

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Raise your knees off the floor, keeping them bent at a 90-degree angle. Rest a hand on each knee and push forward while using your core muscles to pull your knees toward your hands. Hold for six seconds, then return to the start position and repeat. For a variation, place your hands on the outside of your knees, and push your hands inward while your legs push out.

6. Segmental Rotation

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Let your knees fall slowly to the left, keeping your shoulders flat on the floor. Slowly move your legs to the starting position and repeat on the right side.

Recommended Reading

The Health Benefits of Dancing -- Including Specific Benefits of Different Dances

6 Reasons (Besides Great Looks) to Strengthen Your Abdominals, and 5 Exercises to do it Properly


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