Monday, January 14, 2013

Have You Been Ignoring Your Core?

Everyone wants abs, right? Or at least everyone working out does. Now, the mistake a lot of people make when trying to work on their abs is that they tend to go hard on the crunches and the sit-ups without very much cardio, and then get worked up when there are little or no results. Are you one of those?

The core is our center. It’s where our strength comes from for most exercises. It’s where most of our balance comes from. And so it is very important to build a strong core besides just building abs. But as you do regular cardio to burn fat, and do exercises to strengthen your core, you will notice that your abs become more defined.

So if crunches are not the way, how do you strengthen your core? By activating your core with every exercise you do! Rather than spend time on the floor straining your neck going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth (this has me tired already), tighten your core when you do other exercise that work on other muscles. What exercises, you ask? Well, I’ve been waiting to tell you a few :)

Running/Elliptical: When you go running or use the elliptical, there is the tendency to just be thinking about getting through it. In fact, most people do not run with the right form because they are so focused on the finish line. But that is a topic for another day. Where does your strength come from when you do these upright cardio exercises? Your first response might be “the hips”, but in reality, it should be the core. Squeeze as you lift each knee. Squeeze as you push forward. Propel forward from your core. You should literally feel your core muscles working as you do these cardio exercises.

Planks/Pushups: When you do exercises that require holding your body up on the floor, e.g. planks or side planks, try to use your core to hold your body in a straight line. It may be a good idea to do this in front of a mirror the first few times to make sure you are straight and holding your core tight. Remember: butt neutral (not high in the air and not sagging towards the floor), core tight, and elbows under shoulders.

Squats/Lunges: This sounds strange, right? But when you do your squats and lunges, you are supposed to keep your upper body as upright as you possibly can, while making sure your knees stay behind your toes. To keep your upper body upright, you use the strength from your core. This is why the stronger you get, the straighter your body can be. So tight tight tight as you go down.

Chest Press/Weightlifting: A lot of the weight lifting we do comes from not only having strong arms and shoulders, but having a strong back and core. As you do chest presses, use your core to push your lower back into the bench while you lift. This activates your core muscles.

Stretching/Yoga: Of course this should be intuitive. As you do yoga, the power to keep yourself upright in most of those poses comes from your core. The more you do the poses, the more you strengthen your core. And you know it is uber important to stretch after every workout. Now you have even another great reason to do so.
Are you going to engage your core today?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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  1. Hi,
    I just started doing lateral raises, and they've left me with extremely sore shoulder muscles. Do you have any alternative suggestions?

  2. Hi! Your shoulders should be sore if you worked them. But if it persists and it is too much, you could try some rotating arm circles like this one: Let me know if that helps!


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