More than just the abdominals, your core includes all the muscles in your torso: shoulders, back, sides, abs, hips, and bottom. A strong core enables your muscles to work in harmony, improves posture and balance, and lessens your risk for aches, pain, and injury. All of your everyday activities require the constant use of your core muscles. From sitting, standing, and bending to twisting and lifting, life puts stress on your core almost every minute of every day. Weak or unbalanced core muscles can lead to falls, aches, pains, and an inability to perform basic tasks.
Don’t make the mistake of overlooking your core muscles or focusing solely on strong abs. While abs are an important part of a strong core, they’re only part of the puzzle. Building a strong core doesn’t require fancy gym equipment; a few simple bodyweight exercises are all you need. Remember to keep breathing during each core exercise.
One way to work your core musculature is with the bridge. To do this exercise, lie on your back and bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Relax your back. (Don’t press it flat on the floor or arch it). Tighten your abdominals and lift your hips up off the floor until they are in a straight line with your shoulders and knees. Hold for as long as you can, and then relax. Repeat.
There are several variations of the plank exercise. The simplest way to perform a plank is to get on the floor in the push-up position. Place your elbows and forearms on the ground. Then hold your body up on your toes and forearms, while keeping your body in a straight line from your head to your heels. Keep this position for as long as you can.
Want a little more from your plank? You can quickly increase the intensity with these variations. While in the plank position, lift one leg at a time. Or lift one arm at a time, straight out in front of you, in a straight line with your body. You can also try the side plank. Hold your body in a straight line while on your left side supported on your left elbow and left ankle. Switch sides.
Another common core exercise is the v-sit. While sitting on the floor, lift your legs straight up until they’re at a 45-degree angle with the floor. As you lift your legs, reach your arms toward your shins or straight in front of you. Your body will be in a V-shape. Hold for as long as you can, then relax and repeat.
Strengthen your core as well as your lower body by lunging with a twist. Hold a medicine ball or smaller rubber ball in your hands and do a lunge. Take a large step forward with your right leg and lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the floor and your left knee barely touches the floor. As you lower your body, twist your torso and the ball to the right. Stand back up and take a step with your left leg, lower your body, and twist to the left. Keep alternating legs.
Summon your super powers and strengthen your core as you get in theSuperman flying position. Lie on your stomach on the floor. With your head facedown, stretch your arms above your head and let them lie flat on the floor. Next, raise your left arm and right leg six inches off the floor. Hold for several seconds and relax. Now raise your right arm and left leg. Repeat and feel the burn!
Getting a strong core is a lifelong task. But it doesn’t take all day. You can prevent or relieve lower back pain with just five minutes of core exercises a day.