We hear a lot about how important strengthening your core muscles is. But many of us do not even understand where our core muscles are, much less what to do to strenthen them. Thus, we routinely leave core strengthening our of our fitness routines.
Where core muscles are and what they do
Your core muscles are the muscles that lie around your trunk and pelvis. They connect the upper and lower parts of your body, and are found in the stomach, hips, glutes, and lower back. They assist with tasks like bending, reaching for things, twisting, and lifting things.
Signs of weak core muscles
We use our core muscles for many everyday tasks that can be very difficult when our core muscles are weakened by lack of exercise. Here are some signs of weak core muscles:
- Pain in your lower back
In the absence of a serious back condition, lower back pain can be a big clue that the muscles aligning your spine are too weak to properly support your spine’s discs and vertebrae.
- Trouble with posture
When you have trouble sitting or standing with good posture for very long, it is a sign of weak core muscles. If you find yourself slouching a lot or slumping while sitting, that is a big tip off that you need to strengthen your core muscles. Back pain and poor posture often go hand in hand.
- Balance issues
Problems with balance are not usually noticeable because we easily get used to them and accept them as normal. Here’s a test to see if you have balance issues. Close your eyes and stand on one foot for a minimum of ten seconds, and then try doing the same with the other foot. If you cannot do this with one or both feet, a weakened core is likely the culprit.
- Hollowing test
You can also test your core muscle strength with the hollowing test. While standing upright, take a deep breath. Then, as you exhale, move your stomach back toward your spine as much as you are able to do so. Hold that position for ten seconds. Congratulate yourself if you make it, or get ready to exercise your core muscles if you don’t.
- The forearm plank test
Another test you can do to determine the relative strength of your core muscles is the forearm plank test. Assume the position of someone doing a push up on the floor, resting the weight of your body on your toes and forearms. Keep your body straight, especially your head and neck. Hold this position for 50 seconds if you can. If you crumble to the floor before the 50 seconds passes, you know you have a very weak core.
- Generalized weakness
Weak arms or weak legs can also be indicative of a weakened core. Generalized weakness throughout the body often results from a weak core.
Good core exercises
When an exercise utilizes your abdominal muscles in conjunction with your back muscles, it results in core strengthening. Here are a few simple ones:
- Bridge – lie on your back on the floor, bending your knees, and raise your hips into an inverted triangle and hold that position for as long as you can.
- Dead Bug – Lie down on your back with your arms extended behind Lift your right arm as high as you can while lifting your left leg as high as you can and hold for 10 seconds. Alternate with left arm an right leg, doing at least 10 reps.
- Seated Leg Lifts – Sit on the floor with your arms out to your sides and your hands flat on the floor. Alternate lifting one leg and then the other one six inches from the floor while breathing deeply. Hold each lift for as long as you can.
Strengthening the core muscles can help you live a longer, more fulfilling life because you will be able to easily do more things without pain or weakness.