When creating a strength-training routine, it is crucial that core exercises be a part of your program. The core has traditionally been associated with the abdominals and lower back muscles, but hip and pelvic muscles are also very important.
Strengthening all of these muscle groups as part of your core exercises has several benefits:
* Increased tone in the superficial abdominal muscles
* Reduced chances of suffering lower back pain
* Less chance of injury during workouts
* An increase in balance and stability
With more than two dozen muscles groups making up the core a wide variety of exercises can be done to target them. The following exercises, however, will not only activate some of these muscles, but will develop strength in these areas. This is key to developing overall balance and stability.
The Plank Position is one of the best core exercises that you can do. The reason is that when done properly, it not only targets your core, but it is very effective at working on your quadriceps muscles in your thighs, your chest muscles, as well as your triceps and several smaller stabilizer muscles.
For the most benefit, try to hold the plank position as long as you can and then repeat a second time. Your goal from one workout to the next would be to increase your personal best time. Plank is a versatile exercise that can be adapted to suit all fitness ranges and abilities.
Are crunches and sit-ups the same? The simple answer is, “no.” With a typical crunch where your legs are in a static position, you will adequately develop the superficial abdominal muscles. In a crunch, your back also stays on the floor (unlike sit-ups).
If you wish to strengthen the deeper abdominal muscles, sit-ups may be your exercise of choice. Sit-ups are a great abdominal and hip flexor strengthening tool, if done properly.
However, there is a word of caution when doing sit-ups. Ensure that your hands are on your chest, not behind your head, so as to avoid causing neck strain!
The other advantage of doing sit-ups is that you can use a dumbbell or a medicine ball to challenge your abdominal muscles even further.
These core exercises are very good at targeting the lower abdominal muscles. Most core workout exercises are great for the lower back and upper abdominals, but not as many will aim to target the lower abdominals. Side-leg lifts do exactly that. In fact, it is advisable that you work out the lower abdominals before the upper abdominals, so make this your first exercise when working out your core.
In summary, core exercises that incorporate strength training create a strong foundation that will allow you to maximize your workout routine. Although the effects of strong core muscles cannot always be seen, they will pay big dividends as you progress down the road to better health.