madison cheat sheet: improve your core strength
A strong core is vital to your physical wellbeing but many people are confused when it comes to identifying what the “core” actually is.
Core strength is not simply about embarking on a sit up spree in order to get defined abs or a six-pack, in fact the abdominals, which many of us focus on, make up only a small part of the core and have limited and specific action. Unlike the abdominals, core strength targets all muscle groups that stabilise the spine and pelvis making it possible for you to stand upright, move on two feet and shift body weight (all critically important movements in the scheme of things).
Weak or poorly controlled core muscles not only affect your ability to take on other forms of exercise correctly, but can also cause lower back pain. Maintaining a strong core means that you are distributing the stresses of weight-bearing and protecting your back in the process. This ultimately assists with your posture as well.
In other words, the stronger and more correctly balanced your core muscles are, the less the uneven strain on the spine and the lower the chance of injury.
So, now that you are clued in, how do you get a rock solid core? Here are some of the best and easiest exercises that you can do at home to improve core strength.
In a face down position, balance on your toes and elbows while attempting to maintain a straight line from heels to head. This exercise can also be known as a plank. Start by holding for 30 seconds then build up as you improve.
Laying on your side, push up with your right arm. Form a bridge maintaining a straight line from your hand to your foot. Rest on your elbow to increase the difficulty. Hold for 30 seconds then repeat on the other side.
Laying on your back, raise your hips so that only your head, shoulders and feet are touching the floor. Hold, release and repeat.
Lie on your back with your legs bent 90 degrees at the hip. Slowly lift your hips off the floor and towards the ceiling. Lower your hips to the floor and repeat.
Sit on the floor with hips and knees flexed to approximately 90 degree angles. Use a medicine ball or small dumbbell and swing it to the right and left as you keep the hips from rotating with the shoulders. Keep arms lowered as you swing and for more difficulty try to raise your feet slightly off the ground.
Pilates and yoga are also great when it comes to improving core strength.
Words by Alette Winfield
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