The core muscles have to be some of the most underrated muscles in the body. You have your core muscles to thank for many basic activities that are usually taken for granted; things like walking, standing upright, bending down, and yoga all depend on your core strength.
What are the Core Muscles?
A lot of people think “core” and “abs” can be used interchangeably, but the two don’t necessarily mean the same thing. Some of the muscles that make up the core are not abdominal muscles.
The core is the group of muscles that make up the center of your body, including your abs, back, hips, and pelvis. This muscle group is vital to maintaining proper posture, balance, and stability.
Most of your body movements require core stability. With a weak core, it becomes harder to do everyday activities such as walking, sitting, and even breathing.
Signs of a Weak Core
Lower Back Pain
Do you experience lower back pain that seems to never go away? This is a common symptom of a weak core. When your core muscles are not strong enough to support your spine, it puts extra pressure on your lower back, leading to discomfort and pain.
Slouching, rounded shoulders, and a protruding belly are all signs of poor posture, which is often caused by a weak core. A strong core helps you maintain proper alignment and prevents your body from collapsing forward.
Poor Balance and Coordination
Do you stumble or have trouble keeping your balance while walking or doing other physical activities? This could be due to a weak core, as it is responsible for maintaining stability and balance in your body. You may also lack upper body strength and coordination. This would make it hard to do upper body movements like throwing a ball or doing pull-ups.
Surprisingly, a weak core can also contribute to digestive problems. When your core muscles are weak, your digestive system can become sluggish and less efficient.
Your outer core muscles play a significant role in breathing by supporting the diaphragm. The diaphragm is an internal muscle that controls breathing. So, if the muscles that support it are weak, it can be harder to breathe deeply, leading to shallow breathing and decreased oxygen intake.
Causes of a Weak Core
A sedentary lifestyle, which includes prolonged sitting or lack of physical activity, can lead to a weak core. Your core muscles need to be engaged regularly to maintain their strength and endurance.
Spending long periods of time sitting or standing in a slouched position can weaken your core muscles over time.
Pregnancy and Childbirth
Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the core muscles, as they undergo significant changes during this time. It’s essential to focus on core strengthening exercises postpartum to regain strength and stability.
Unfortunately, as we age, our muscle mass and strength naturally decrease. This includes our core muscles, which can become weaker if not properly maintained through exercise and physical activity.
Ways to Strengthen Your Core
You can increase core stability and strength by having a consistent exercise routine and making a few lifestyle changes. Here, we’ll list a few core-strengthening exercises, but if you think those are too challenging, you can check out these simple beginner exercises to improve your core stability:
5 Exercises to Strengthen Your Core
Bird dog targets your back muscles and core stability. It relieves low back pain and strengthens the core, hips, and back muscles.
- Start on all fours in a tabletop position.
- Engage your abdominal muscles to maintain a neutral spine.
- Lift one arm and the opposite leg off the ground, keeping your body in a straight line.
- Hold for a few seconds, then switch sides.
- Try to do 3 sets of at least 8 repetitions.
Russian twists target your oblique muscles, which are essential for rotational movement.
- Start by sitting on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lean back slightly and engage your core muscles. Make sure your feet are planted firmly on the ground and avoid lifting them.
- Hold a weight, such as a dumbbell or medicine ball, with both hands in front of your chest. You don’t have to hold weights if this proves too difficult for you. You can just keep your hands pressed together.
- Slowly twist your torso to one side, keeping your core engaged and your back straight. Your arms should follow the movement of your torso, but your hips should remain facing forward.
- Pause briefly at the end of the twist and then slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat the movement on the opposite side, twisting to the other side while keeping your core engaged and your back straight.
- Aim to perform 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions on each side.
Superman is an exercise that targets your lower back muscles, which are essential for a strong core.
- Lie face down on a mat or soft surface with your arms and legs extended. Keep your neck in a neutral position by looking down at the mat, rather than straining to look up
- Engage your core muscles and lift your arms, legs, and chest off the ground simultaneously. Keep your arms and legs straight and avoid bending your knees or elbows.
- Hold this position for a few seconds, squeezing your glutes and lower back muscles. Avoid arching your back too much by engaging your core muscles and keeping your hips pressed into the ground.
- Slowly lower back down to the starting position.
- Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
Lifestyle Changes to Improve Core Strength
Be mindful of your posture throughout the day, especially when sitting or standing for extended periods. Sit up straight, roll your shoulders back and down, and engage your core muscles to support your spine.
Drinking enough water is essential for maintaining healthy muscles, including your core. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water a day.
Consistent Exercise Routine
Regular exercise, including both strength training and cardiovascular exercise, is essential for maintaining a strong and healthy body. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.