Core strength is key to fitness

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Why all the fuss about core strength?

Not only do abdominals look great when they are toned but they play a vital part in our ability to do everyday tasks. Core strength is absolutely key to how we move and abdominals, combined with the back muscles, are essential to a stable core.

So what exactly are the core muscles? Australia health and fitness website Better Health outlines the key components of our abdominal muscle system.

The main muscles of the core

The four main abdominal muscle groups that combine to completely cover the internal organs include:
• Transversus abdominis – the deepest muscle layer. Its main roles are to stabilise the trunk and maintain internal abdominal pressure.

• Rectus abdominis – slung between the ribs and the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis. When contracting, this muscle has the characteristic bumps or bulges that are commonly called ‘the six pack’. The main function of the rectus abdominis is to move the body between the ribcage and the pelvis.

• External oblique muscles – these are on each side of the rectus abdominis. The external oblique muscles allow the trunk to twist, but to the opposite side of whichever external oblique is contracting. For example, the right external oblique contracts to turn the body to the left.

• Internal oblique muscles – these flank the rectus abdominis and are located just inside the hipbones. They operate in the opposite way to the external oblique muscles. For example, twisting the trunk to the left requires the left side internal oblique and the right side external oblique to contract together.

Krunch and Kore fitness abs class

Creating a foundation for great core strength

So, we can see just why core strength is so essential. Having a solid core creates a foundation for all activities. All our movements are powered by the torso – the abdominals and back work together to support the spine when we sit, stand, bend over, pick things up, exercise and more.

With that in mind, with guidance from the NHS website, we have put together a 10 minute exercise programme to really work the core. This can be completed as a standalone exercise session or incorporated into your fitness routine. It needs no equipment, although a mat will make it easier on the elbows and hips for certain exercises.

It is important that you do a warm-up before starting these exercises. Five minutes of jogging, stretching and generally preparing your body for exercise will be ample.

Stomach Crunch

This exercise targets the abdominal muscles.

Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Place your hands by your ears with elbows wide. Curl your upper body off the floor until your shoulders are about 10cms from the floor. Hold for a count of five and slowly lower. Repeat 15 times.

Oblique Crunch

Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Roll your knees to the left so you are lying on your left-hand side. Place your hands by your ears.
Slowly curl up towards your hips until your shoulders are about 10cms off the floor. Hold the position for five seconds and slowly lower down. Repeat 15 times and then repeat on right-hand side.

Leg Raised Crunch

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Place your hands across your chest. Slowly pull your knees into your chest, keeping them bent at 90 degrees, until your buttocks and tailbone come off the floor. Hold the position for a moment and lower down slowly. Perform 10 crunches. then relax. Repeat this exercise a further four times.

Perfect Plank

Lie on your front propped up on your forearms and toes. Keep your legs straight and hips raised to create a straight and rigid line from head to toe. Your shoulders should be directly above your elbows. Focus on keeping your abs contracted during the exercise. Hold this position for 20 seconds, then relax. Repeat 8 to 10 times.

Side Plank

Lie on your left-hand side propped up on an elbow. Your shoulder should be directly above your elbow. Straighten your legs and raise your hips from the floor to create a straight and rigid line from head to toe. Keep your neck long and your shoulders down and away from your ears. Keep your abs contracted during the exercise. Hold this position for 20 seconds and repeat 8 to 10 times. Repeat the exercise on the right-hand side.

For advice on these, or for more ideas on developing core strength, please talk to one of our knowledgeable personal trainers.