Up next on our journey through the muscles and why they’re important is one of the most important muscles in our body: our core. Though you may not realize it, you use your core a lot more often than you think. Your core is what prevents you from falling and supports your body! So, why else is it important? Keep reading below!
We always end the class with a core section and we all truly have a love hate relationship with it. So why is it important? To realize why it’s important, I think it’s important we know what muscles are considered our “core”!
Your core is a complex mix of muscles- extending far beyond what you see as your “six pack”! Most of these muscles are hidden and you probably wouldn’t realize they were there if you didn’t research it. Major muscles of the core include pelvic floor muscles, transverses abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae and diaphragm. Minor core muscles include latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus and trapezius.
That’s pretty crazy right?! So many muscles make up our core and you probably didn’t even realize half of them! Now we get to the fun part- why is this important?
Thin of your core muscles as the central link in your body. Your core connects your upper and lower body and keeps them stable! Many motions we do originate in your core or move through it. No matter where the motion originates from, at some point it’s most likely hitting in your core. Weak or inflexible core muscles can impair how well your arms and legs function. This can result in weak movements! Properly building up your core cranks up the power in these movements. Another thing your core does is enhances your balance and stability. Know how we say “engage your core” during those dead lifts we do every so often in class? That’s why! Engaging your core helps you balance and helps your stability. Weak, tight, or unbalanced core muscles can undermine you in everyday activities. While society gives us the view of having those “six pack abs” that’s not where we should have our focus. We should keep our focus on strengthening every muscle in our core so we are able to balance our body! Here’s a couple of tips we’ve found that help us enhance our core work during class.
- Hip discomfort? Place a ball under your lower back! This creates a balance challenge for you, allows you to continually think about engaging your core and also takes the pressure off of your hips!
- Discomfort in a sitting position working your obliques? Place the ball behind your lower back or cross your legs to find criss cross apple sauce or straighten your legs!
- Discomfort in your wrists in a plank? Take is at the bar!!! This will take the pressure out of your wrists and allow you to focus entirely on your core.
- One of the most important things you can do for yourself (not only in the studio but also outside of the studio) is watching your posture. Good posture helps to lessen wear and tear on the spine and allows you to continue breathing deeply. Having good posture truly allows you to reap the full benefits from the effort you’re putting into exercise. It’s SO important to think about that good posture during class (especially during that last 60 second plank people!!!)
Now that we’ve hit on some things we love to do to help any discomfort we commonly feel during core, let’s hit on some exercises that really help hit all areas of our core!
- Plank. This really helps us to activate all of our core! Think about pulling up from your belly button into your spine and I promise you will feel it.
- Leg raises. This exercise really helps us hit on our lower abs. The specific muscles we hit here are your transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus and your external obliques. These leg raises help to tone these muscles. One important thing to remember in these leg raises is to keep your lower back pressed into the ground. This allows us to keep the work in our core and our of our lower back!
- Bicycles. This exercise specifically targets your oblique muscles! Hint- you don’t have to do these super quick. The slower you do these and the more you focus on the muscles you’re working, the more you’re going to feel this! If you’re feeling frisky one day at home and have a weight laying around, one of our favorite challenges is to do these holding a weight behind our head!
- Bird dogs. This exercise helps tone the deeper muscles in your core and helps us strengthen our stability. This exercise may seem pointless but trust us when we say it is helping you!! Any exercise combined with the right amount of control and balance will continue to build your core. Once again, important exercise to keep nice and slow to really build that stability! Couple of challenges if you’re bored at home: have a hand weight laying around? Place it into one hand and work one side for 25 reps with the weight in one hand, and then swap it to the other leg. No weights? No problem, instead of resting your knees on the ground, come into an all fours hold and work from there! That one will really test your balance.
- Scissor kicks. These are a rough exercise, but they truly help build the fire in your core! This exercise targets your obliques, upper abs, and your lower abs at the same time!! Once again though, it’s important to think about keeping your lower back glued to the ground so we keep the work in our core and out of our lower back.
Now every time we say “engage your core” you’ll know what we mean! Your core is vital in everything you do so we challenge you to think about it more frequently!
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