how to build core strength

How To Build Core Strength

The core is pretty important, it’s the centre of the body, after all. When we think of the core we often think of the stomach, and when performing exercises to strengthen the core, more often than not it's for aesthetics.

Come on, who doesn’t want abs. However, the core encompasses a lot more than just that and plays a fundamental role within the body. Let’s break it down. 

Understanding the Core

The core is made up of muscles, tendons and ligaments. Within the core, you have:

  • Rectus Abdominis: Located in the front of the abdomen, these muscles help the spine to flex forward, better known as the ‘six-pack’ muscles 
  • Transverse Abdominis: This muscle wraps around the abdomen, almost like a corset would, providing support to the spine and pelvis
  • Internal and External Obliques: These are situated on the sides of the torso, enabling rotation and side bending 
  • Erector Spinae: Running along the spine, these muscles help to maintain upright posture and backwards bending 
  • Multifidus: These are deep muscles that run along the spine to provide stability to the vertebrae 
  • Pelvic Floor Muscles: These are located at the base of the pelvis to support the organs in the pelvic region 

These muscles work together to stabilise the spine and pelvis, which is crucial for maintaining posture and balance. Think of these muscles as a bridge between the upper and lower body, which allows force to transfer during activities like walking or running. The core is essential for everyday activities like bending or reaching, and a strong core makes these movements easier. The core also protects our vital organs by acting as a protective barrier. 

How Can I Build Core Strength? 

Core Specific Exercises 

Unsurprisingly, core specific exercises are best for targeting the core. Try incorporating these into your workout - 

  • Planks: Planks are a fundamental exercise, as they engage multiple core muscles whilst improving endurance 
  • Russian Twists: These target the oblique muscles and help to improve rotational stability 
  • Bicycle Crunch: Whereas a classic crunch only targets the rectus abdominis, the muscles in the front of the abdomen, bicycle crunches work the core a lot more. This exercise also engages your lower abdominals, during the leg extension, and the obliques when rotating

Compound Exercises 

These are a great one to add into your training plan as they work multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Here are a few to try - 

  • Deadlifts: This exercise is a hip dominant movement that works the hamstrings, glutes, the lower back and of course, the core
  • Squats: Squats involve pushing against resistance and this force is transferred through your core, they also engage the core in maintaining an upright posture, especially when lifting heavy 
  • Overhead Press: This exercise uses the core to stabilise both the spine and pelvis when lifting a weight overhead 

Try incorporating functional movements into your workouts. These are movements that mimic real life and can range from a lunge or a squat to pushing and pulling. To increase your core strength over time, employ progressive overload.

This involves continually increasing the intensity, duration or resistance of the core exercises you're performing. You can find out more about progressive overload in our guide to building muscle. Most importantly, don’t forget to allow yourself time to rest and recover. 

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