As we get older, we can experience the involuntary loss of muscle mass as a consequence of how our bodies change. With this involuntary loss of muscle, your core may become weaker. The core is the foundation of our posture, balance, and support for our whole bodies. While muscle loss is normal with age, there are ways to prevent and even reverse the weakening of our core and abdominal muscles.
Here are 6 of the best core exercises to help you regain strength in your core and improve your overall strength and health!
The Core Muscles
Our core muscles are responsible for strength and movement throughout our whole bodies. The core muscles are located in the trunk of our bodies and include the ribs, abdomen, pelvis and hips.
Core muscles protect from injury, sustain posture, and help support all our physical movements. The muscles in our core envelope the muscles of the spine and help support our backs when we stand and move! In other words, much of our posture relies on our core muscles and how well they can support us.
Balance is heavily dependent on posture. Depending on how much support our back muscles offer, we may be at a greater risk of falling and injury due to poor posture and loss of balance. Falling can result in severe injuries, especially for older adults. Luckily, by strengthening the core muscles, the risk of losing balance and falling can be drastically decreased.
Benefits of Core Exercises
Core exercises improve posture, promote better balance, and support overall physical strength and wellness. But in addition to these things, core exercises can help you reach your personal fitness goals!
Physical activity is the best way to reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and even urinary incontinence. For example, exercise often leads to weight loss. Obesity is associated with numerous health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, and even urinary incontinence. By regularly exercising, you can lose weight and reduce your risk of developing these conditions.
6 Exercises for Your Core
Here are 6 of the best exercises to strengthen your core!
Planks are core exercises that target the deep muscles in your abdomen. They focus on the muscles in your lower trunk that wrap around your spine and help stabilize your back and spine for movement and good posture.
You can perform a plank exercise from the floor. Use a yoga mat or soft surface to stay comfortable. Position the palms of your hands flat on the floor and extend your body out as straight as possible. Your legs should be straight as well, and your toes should be the only part of your feet touching the floor.
You should feel this exercise tighten your abdominal muscles and your body should remain straight. Hold the plank for 30 seconds to a minute and repeat as wanted.
The plank can also be easily modified! If you experience discomfort performing this exercise from the floor, you can use a chair, couch, or other sturdy surface.
If you’re using a chair, make sure it’s sturdy and against a wall for support. If you’re using a couch, make sure it’s sturdy enough so that it doesn’t slide out from under you. Place the palms of your hands on the chair, couch, or sturdy surface and perform a plank. You can change the angle of your body to increase or decrease the intensity as needed!
2. Seated Knee Lifts
Seated knee lifts are an easy core exercise you can perform while sitting at your desk, watching TV, or sitting at the dinner table. This exercise targets the core muscles that support balance and hip movement. To perform this exercise, make sure the place you’re sitting is sturdy and stable.
Sit at the end of the chair so only the edge of your buttocks is on the seat. Stand up as straight as possible. This helps you target your core muscles instead of relying on your arms or leg muscles to lift your knees up. Lift up your right knee so it sits about three to four inches above the chair. Hold your knee there for five seconds and repeat with your left leg.
You can begin by performing these eight times on each leg. Set a goal to accomplish ten or twelve and work your way up to there. You can also scale this exercise up and perform them while standing for more intense core-building.
3. Side Leans
Side leans target the oblique muscles, which are located on the sides of your abdomen. These are responsible for the stabilization and support of the cervical spine, so this exercise is a great way to improve posture and promote all physical movement!
To perform this exercise, position yourself at the very edge of your seat or couch. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor and sit up straight. Place your hands behind your head so that your elbows are bent at each side. Lean to one side and keep your body facing forward. Hold for two seconds, exhale and lean to the other side.
To scale up this exercise, you perform them standing up. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart and you have adequate balance before attempting a standing version. You can also add extra weight by holding a dumbbell in your right hand when you lean to the right side, and holding it in your left hand when you lean to the left side.
4. Bird Dog
The bird dog exercise is one you can do from the floor. Position yourself so you’re on your hands and knees, each about shoulder-width apart. Use a yoga mat or softer surface for extra comfort.
Keep your head facing the ground in a neutral position and tighten your stomach muscles so your back straightens. Lift one leg behind you so it’s level with your back. Lift the opposite arms in front of you so it’s level with your body as well. Hold this position for five to ten seconds, keeping your back straight and your arm and leg stable. Alternate arms and legs and repeat for a few sets.
You can also break this exercise up into pieces. You can extend your right leg out straight, holding it there and lowering it down, and then lift your arm and do the same exercise.
5. Glute Bridges
Glute bridges can be done by lying flat on the floor. It helps to have a yoga mat or soft surface, so you are comfortable throughout this exercise. Bend your knees and lift your hips and pelvis up all the way. Your body should be straight with your knees and your arms should remain flat on the floor throughout the exercise. You will feel this exercise all throughout your core muscles.
You can hold the bridge for a few seconds, slowly lower yourself down, and repeat six to eight times. Or you can perform each glute bridge and see how long you can hold it without breaking form.
You probably remember sit-ups from a gym class, but they are timeless for a reason! Sit-ups are one of the best ways to build your core muscles and stabilize your body. To perform a sit-up, lay on a yoga mat or carpeted floor, and bend your knees. With your arms crossed over your chest or behind your head, try to “sit up” as far as you can go.
Be sure that your movements are controlled and slow. This helps isolate your abdominal muscles and work them more intensely. Repeat sit-ups anywhere from 5 to 15 times in order to get the best results!
Other Things to Know
When starting any new exercise regimen or plan, it’s important to be patient. Results can take weeks to see, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t have perfect abdominal muscles after the first round of core exercises. Strength building takes time, but the benefits are so worth it!
You also may want to incorporate a pain reliever into your routine, as weak core muscles can often lead to back pain and discomfort. Your lower back may feel sore and tense from supporting your spine, or your upper back may feel sore and knotted from supporting your neck and shoulders.
While these core exercises are a fantastic resource to help build muscles to eliminate this pain, there are a world of resources and tools that can help temporarily ease this pain as well. Hemp is an all-natural pain reliever containing CBD. CBD is known to be a temporary supporter of pain relief and tension in muscles and joints! If you experience back pain due to weakened core muscles, try using a topical pain reliever such as a hemp extract salve or hemp extract roll on on the affected area.
We may not realize it, but our core muscles play an important role in balance, posture, movement, and strength. Having strong core muscles can promote our muscle retention as we age and reduce the risk of injury and falling. Core strength also promotes quality of life as it can help you get back to doing what you love with ease of movement and without the fear of falling. These six exercises can help you keep your core strong and keep doing what you love.
For more ways to increase your ease of movement and promote your physical activity, check out this resource!