What is all the fuss about having a strong core? Yes, of course we all want a smokin’ hot six pack, but is there a real benefit to tightening your tummy beyond the aesthetic? Short answer: Yes. And a lot of it has to do with having a healthier, stronger center and a less achey lower back.
Strong core muscles make it so much easier to do many of our daily physical activities—such as running errands, doing household chores, and moving every which way. When you use your core to bend, lift, twist, and reach you safeguard your lower back, shifting weight off of your spine and onto your abs and the muscles of your back.
Core exercises strengthen your abdominals, back muscles, obliques (sides), and muscles around the pelvis. But this doesn’t mean do a million crunches! That can only promise a sore back. What should you do instead?
Here are three exercises to do daily as you work toward a stronger core and a happier lower back:
*Note! When performing core strengthening exericses, remember to breathe freely and deeply during each movement. To strengthen your transverse abdominis, the deepest abdominal muscle, try hugging your waistline in as you move, sort of like you would when trying on a swimsuit.
1. Bridge Pose
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Keep your back in a neutral position and keep your abs engaged. Raise your hips off the floor until they are aligned with your knees and shoulders. Hold for at least 3 deep breaths. Return to start position and repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
2. Forearm Plank
Lay on your stomach. Lift your body off the ground, supporting your upper body with your forearms, elbows directly under your shoulders. Keep your body in a straight line from your head to your heels. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Work up to 60 seconds or longer. *If you need a rest, lift your hips higher than your shoulders to make an upside-down V with you hips lifted toward the sky. (Do not let your hips sag: that can increase back pain and potential for injury!) Once you master this move shake up your workout with these killer plank variations!
3. Opposite Arm and Leg Extension:
Start on all fours, knees right under hips, wrists under shoulders. Lift your left arm overhead and raise your right leg straight behind you so you create a straight line from heel to fingertips. Hold for 2-5 seconds and lower down. Repeat the exercise with the opposite arm and leg. Start with 3 sets of 10 reps each leg, and work up to 30 reps!