Activate, engage, fire, tense your core? But what does it ACTUALLY mean?
I am sure you’ve heard it any times being screamed at you in exercise classes and today we are going to decode the confusion around the core!
Crunching till the cows come home and still not seeing results can often times mean you are failing to engage your core muscles when performing abdominal exercises. The core is not only your abdominal muscles but also a layer of muscle in your back and butt too, which support your pelvis and spine. They support good posture and mostly protect you from injury in your back. By engaging your core it helps you to move the other muscles in your body in a more effective and efficient manner. You might recall severely arching your back to press something up overhead. This is a sign your core muscles may be weak and need strengthening. By zipping up your abs and squeezing your butt you will protect your spine from injury in this motion. Engaging your core is as simple as imagining you’re bracing yourself for a punch in the stomach.
Here’s some simple core exercises to practice engaging your core in;
- Begin in the plank position, face down with your forearms and toes on the floor. Your elbows are directly under your shoulders and your forearms are facing forward. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
- Engage your abdominal muscles, drawing your navel toward your spine. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending. This is the neutral spine position. Ensure your shoulders are down, not creeping up toward your ears. Your heels should be over the balls of your feet.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds. Release to floor.
- Over time work up to 30, 45, or 60 seconds.
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor (easier) or raised up off the floor (more difficult). If you have difficulty holding the position and your feet shift about, try tucking them beneath a stable object.
- Contract your abs and sit at about a 45-degree angle.
- Hold the medicine ball with both hands, directly in front of you.
- Contracting your abs, twist slowly from your torso to your right and touch the medicine ball to the floor beside you. Pause to hold the position a moment.
- Quickly, but smoothly, contract your abs and twist your torso back to the center position, and then proceed on to touch the medicine ball to the floor on the other side of you.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
- To end, bring the ball in front of your body and sit up. Carefully place the ball on the ground without undue twisting.
- Lie face down on a mat with your arms stretched above your head (like Superman)
- Raise your right arm and left leg about 5 to 6 inches off the ground (or as far as you comfortably can).
- Hold for 3 seconds and relax.
- Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
Did you know including dairy in your diet can help support building a strong core?
Building muscle requires sufficient stimulation e.g. resistance exercise; as well as a healthy, balanced diet that provides adequate energy and nutrients such as protein. Milk can contribute to both energy and nutrient intake and is rich in ‘complete’ protein, a type of protein that contains all of the essential amino acids (building blocks of protein) our body needs. Therefore milk can be a convenient and affordable source of nutrients for those participating in exercise training.