That's what I used to think, it actually involves more than just working your abs. The secret to a slimmer waistline, involves working all the core muscles. If only I had known that after having kids, I might have had a better chance of loosing my jelly belly a lot sooner. Both of my children were born by c-sections and once I had been sliced and diced, my stomach muscles seemed to be non existent. No matter what I did, I couldn't seem to regain my waistline, I still looked pregnant years later! This obviously had something to do with food, healthy eating and young kids, did not go hand in hand for me. I only managed to get to grips with my diet once my children were much older, even when I had lost weight it didn't seem to make much difference to how my stomach looked. Thanfully I met Sarah and she showed me the right exercises to bring about the changes that I wanted and how to work my core more effectively. I would like to say the image above is me , it's not, it's actually Sarah, I'm still not disciplined enough with food to achieve a core like that. Although with the right exercises I am much happier with the way I look now.
What does core mean?
It's basically everything from your shoulders to your knees, I could name all the muscles involved, but you would get bored, so briefly some of the core is made up of the pelvic floor, lower back, glutes, abs, internal and external obliques (your sides).
What is core stability/strength?
Core stability means being able to maintain position and balance during physical activity. Core strength/endurance refers to the ability to hold a position whilst resisting fatigue.
Why is it important to have a strong core?
It's not just about appearance. A weak core can create a slouched spine, leading to bad posture, back ache and unnecessary impact and load being placed on the bones. Building a flexible strong core, will create a muscular corset helping to stabilise the whole body. This is important because the movements that we do in everyday life and sport create motion between the shoulders and pelvis. These motions are controlled by your core muscles, so having a strong stable torso/pelvis area and trunk, will help improve power generated to other muscles in the body, posture, balance, stability and strength.
Which exercises should I do?
Pilates, yoga and suspension training are great at helping improve your core as the positions and moves involved target the correct muscle groups. There are many simple body weight exercises that you can practise at home, such as the plank, russian twists, squats and push ups to name a few. You could also try our Bodicore routines, which have been designed to strengthen core stability and strength.
Engaging your core - what does that mean?
If you have ever taken part in a class or had a session with a personal trainer, you will have been told to engage your core. This doesn't just relate to your abs, you need to activate the rest of your core muscles. So imagine creating a solid ring of muscle around your midrift. To do this, use your abs to pull up the front of the pelvis, then almost push your sides out whilst tensing, as though you were about to receive a punch, don't forget to engage your back and glutes to help create a corset type effect, but whatever you do please remember to breathe.
To help you on your way to building a stronger core, we have added a tutorial video of the plank, where Sarah will show you the correct technique. The plank is a simple yet effective bodyweight exercise which requires no equipment, so can be practised anywhere and can be made harder or easier depending on your fitness levels. When performing a plank try to ensure the following:
Body is in a straight line from head to toes, with your torso straight and rigid.
Engage your core (as mentioned above).
Squeeze your glutes to help protect your lower back.
Shoulders over your hands with elbows in - not flared out.
Try not to do the downward dog, so no bending and raising your butt into the air, try not to dip your hips either.
The plank can be performed with straight arms, or elbows bent at 90 degrees, whilst resting on your forearms.
Hold the position for 15-60" depending on your fitness level, don't be a martyr, only hold the position for as long as the correct form can be maintained.
Try Our Plank Challenge, it's a manageable way to begin building a stronger core.