Core strength is pivotal. It’s what gives you stability and works as a stable foundation for all other exercises and movements not to mention balance and posture. It’s easy to say that you want to work on your core but as a beginner, what’s not so simple is knowing where to start and how to go about it.
To help point you in the right direction, we reached out to two movement specialists from Perform for Life. CSCS certified Kristopher (Kris) Gallimore and Tyler Martinez, NASM CPT, shared some of their tips about how to ease into core strength training, what the best exercises to do are (that’ll hit every spot) and how frequently you should do them.
When we talk about the ‘core’, we’re generally referring to the muscles in your torso (though it covers much more than that). The main areas are:
- Rectus abdominis (top part of core)
- Transverse abdominis (obliques)
Martinez says that signs you have a weak core are “Poor posture, low back pain and bad balance.”
Gallimore adds, “Also, if you find yourself having trouble staying upright in your squat, that could be a sign of a weak core too.”
If one or more of these signs are all too familiar to you, don’t worry. Like every other muscle in the body, it’s something that can be trained and strengthened. There are specific core strengthening exercises that you can do that’ll hit all areas.
There’s a myriad of exercises that you can do to work on your core strength. It’s best to do a mixture of exercises to target all areas so you can achieve a balanced result from your efforts.
“Planks are a great exercise for beginners to begin working on their core targeting it as a whole,” says Gallimore. “While side planks can be used to target the obliques.” These are two examples of isometric exercises, meaning that there is tension placed on the core without movement from other joints.
For beginners, start by holding the plank for 10-30 seconds. Then, as you continue to do it, slowly work your way up. If you want an easier version of the side plank, then opt to do them by supporting yourself on your knees as opposed to your toes and a shorter time period to hold it. Then, work your way up by time and eventually, advance to the toes version.
Hollow holds is another isometric core strengthening exercise. Not only does it assist in strengthening your stabilizing muscle, but it also works on your abdominal bracing. Abdominal bracing, when you contract your core to activate the surrounding muscles and is a pivotal component in lifting. As Gallimore says, “Your core should play a role in any workout that you participate in. Without a strong and stable core, we can’t perform exercises to the best of our ability.”
The hollow hold is typically done with straight legs, so your body makes a V-shape. However, for beginners, bend your knees so that they are at a 90-degree angle. Get the form right at this version before slowly progressing to straight legs.
Banded good mornings
To work on your posterior core strength, implement banded good mornings into your workout, Gallimore recommends. Use a resistance band looped around your shoulders and feet to give resistance.
While isometric exercises are great core strength builders, Gallimore also suggests that “your core can be strengthened while targeting other muscle groups,” and the banded good mornings does exactly that, addressing your hamstrings, glutes, upper back, lats and calves.
Gallimore explains, “Band Rotations are an amazing tool for building your core through a different plane of motion.” It’ll specifically target your obliques and only requires a resistance band and a vertical pole to do it.
This exercise is easily adjusted to your fitness level. For a beginner-friendly version, use a lighter, thinner resistance band as opposed to a thicker one. This will make it easier to rotate your torso with each rep.
Strengthen your core in just 15 minutes
Now that you know what exercises to do for your core, when should you implement them into your fitness routine. You don’t need to dedicate an hour-long session, multiple times a week, to get results. In fact, Martinez recommends 15 minutes of core work 3-4 times a week. Gallimore also adds that “ For beginners, who want to target core specifically, two times a week for 5-10min is a good way to start.”
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