Strong Core – What’s the Secret?
Just about everyone want to have a great looking set of abs right? Well, great looking abs don’t always necessarily equal a strong core! Your core is constantly at work, so it is actually a pretty strong muscle already, but if you want to do more than just breathe and sit up right, you need to put some focused effort into strengthening up your core, not just your abs!
Actually, your abs only make up a small percentage of your core, but it’s the area that people tend to focus on the most when it comes to the photos you see in magazines, the commercials you see on TV, etc…They are THE SYMBOL for a healthy and fit body right?
In reality, your core includes the muscles around your lower back and hips as well as the sides of your torso and they are all at work in just about every single movement you make. Your core is just like every other muscle in your body, you have got to get it stronger by providing resistance. That doesn’t mean weighted resistance either, one of the most effective core workouts I have every done is performed without weights – NONE! For most people, your body provides enough resistance that you can really improve/increase the strength of your core.
Say Hello to the Plank
The Plank exercise is such a versatile one and requires no equipment if you are just getting started. However, it is also one of the most effective core exercises because, when done properly is engages your ENTIRE core, whereas some of the other more common “ab exercises” will only focus on a single portion of your core. While those exercises, have their place (you would get pretty bored just hanging out in plank position for 10 minutes), they don’t always combine everything that the plank does.
In perfect plank position, you are working the following:
- Abs – upper and lower
- Back – upper and lower
How to Plank (High Plank)
- Start in the push-up “UP” position.
- Keep your feet together.
- Head in neutral spine – looking just slightly out in front of you (not up or down).
- Tighten your glutes and tuck your hips slightly forward contracting your abs.
- Keep your arms directly under your shoulders, but shoulder width apart.
- For Low Plank, drop to your elbows, resting most of your weight on your forearms (see photo above).
Once you have mastered the main plank position, there are tons of other exercises that you can include that offer a compound effect to the standard plank position. We will go through some of my favorite below, but these are just a few to get you started, many of the ones listed below are found in various Beachbody Fitness programs like P90X2 and P90X3, Focus T25 and Insanity, so you might be familiar with them already.
Here are 6 core exercises bases on the plank position that you can start doing today and improve your core strength and get that 6-pack you have been wanting!
Bonus Benefits of a Strong Core
Lift More – With a stronger core, you’ll be able to support your spine more effectively, which in turn allows your entire body to be more structurally sound and this will allow you to increase the weight!
Pain-free back – Because your core has so much to do with how you sit/stand/move throughout your day, if your core is stronger, the everyday things that you might have struggled with in the past become a little easier and you won’t get injured or suffer from a strained back.
Trouble Holding the Plank Position?
If you are unable to hold the plank position for at least 30 seconds, you’ll need to build up some core strength to get yourself there. Here’s a way to get it done. Hold the plank position for 5-10 seconds, then drop to you knees while still keeping your core engaged and hold for another 5-10 seconds. Rest for 5 seconds and repeat that sequence until you have reached at least 30 seconds.
- Hold the full plank position: 5-10 seconds.
- Drop to knees: 5-10 seconds
- Rest: 5 seconds
- Repeat until you’ve reached 30 seconds total.
Each time you go through this process, you’ll want to try and extend the amount of time you are in the plank position, even if it is just a few extra seconds – that’s progress!
Need some other options?
If you can’t yet hold the full plank position, start from your knees. You can also start with your knees on the ground and have your upper body at a 45 degree angle against something like a chair or your couch. Just be sure you are engaging your core the entire time and not just leaning over. Put in the work and you’ll see the results!
Need a Coach?
If you need to find someone that will hold you accountable, answer your questions, help you, and PUSH YOU for the entire duration of your workout! Luckily for you, that’s what me and my team are here for. If you don’t have a coach yet and want one, I’d love to be your coach and help you through a fitness program. I am available to help you reach your goals!