The “core” of the body is defined as the middle section of the body, minus the extremities. The major muscles of the core include the abdominals, muscles of the middle and lower back, the hips and muscles of the shoulders and neck. These are critical muscles for providing strength, endurance and flexibility in the body.
The Importance of Core Muscle Strength.
Keeping your core strong helps you stay fit in a number of different ways:
· A strong core helps your balance and posture – When side, stomach and back muscles are strong, your body stays upright without tiring.
· A strong core keeps your stomach flatter so you look better and clothes fit better – Keeping your core toned helps to keep abdominal muscles in good condition.
· A strong core makes it easier to do everyday activities – Twisting, reaching, climbing stairs and other activities are all easier when your core muscles are toned.
· A strong core helps you to reach your fitness goals more easily – When your core is strong, you can engage in your preferred exercise for longer periods of time, increasing the chances of reaching your fitness goals.
· A strong core reduces back pain – When the core muscles are strong, it reduces the pressure put on discs in the spine.
The Bridge Exercise
The bridge is one of the most basic of core-building exercises and can be done by anyone. The individual lies on his back with knees bent, but together and with arms at the sides. He then lifts the hips off the floor, aligning them with knees and shoulders at an angle. Hold the position for three breaths, and then lower the hips down to the floor. Progressively increase the number of breaths in which the position is held to improve core strength.
The Plank Exercise
In the plank exercise, the individual lies face down on the floor, then raises the upper part of the body until the arms are completely extended. The lower body is raised off the floor and held as straight as possible, so that that entire body is held in an inclined straight line. The individual then holds the position for a count of 5, then 10, then 15, as the core muscles get stronger with repetition. A number of modifications to the basic plank exercise can also be done, such as a side plank, holding the body straight while being held by one extended arm and the side of one foot, while extending the other arm upward.
The Segmental Rotation Exercise
In the segmental rotation exercise, the individual lies on his back with knees lifted to chest. He then turns both knees to one side and holds. The knees do not have to reach the floor, but the abdominal muscles should remain tightened. Hold the position for three breaths. Return to the start position. Then, he turns both knees to the other side, holding the position for three breaths.