Engaging your core during your workout helps reduce the risk of injury, especially injuries of the lower back. To learn how to properly contract your core muscles, try this technique:
Lie on the floor and place your fingertips one inch above your hip bones and one inch in toward your navel. Continue to breathe normally as you draw your navel in toward your spine and up toward your rib cage and then slightly bear down (imagine lowering the navel toward the floor). You should feel your abdomen tighten.
Now that you know how to properly engage your core, try these exercises to build strength:
On the floor, place your hands under your shoulders, approximately shoulder-width apart. Press your body up with the balls of your feet on the floor and support your weight while keeping your whole body in a straight line.
Lie flat on your stomach with your arms and legs outstretched, palms toward the ground and toes pointed. Simultaneously lift your arms, legs and chest off the floor for approximately 3 seconds, then slowly return to the ground. Look at a spot on the floor in front of you so you don’t strain your neck.
Sit up with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Lean back at a 45-degree angle, keeping your back straight. Using your muscles, slowly twist to each side as far as you can while looking straight ahead. For an added challenge, hold a weight in your hands as you twist.
Kneel on the floor with your hands positioned under your shoulders. Slowly raise and lower one hand and the opposite foot straight-out, then bring them back to your starting position. Repeat on the opposite side. Perform this exercise several times, alternating which arm and leg you use each time.
A strong core offers many benefits at any age. What are your current fitness goals? Your goals are as diverse as you are. You may want to improve your overall stability, increase your strength or improve your fitness performance. No matter what your fitness goals are, enhanced core strength will help you get there more effectively!