While experts agree that working and strengthening your core is essential to overall well-being, there are different schools of thought about what abdominal muscles are most important to work. In the end, the key is to balance stabilizing exercises with functional strength movements.
Most core exercises, when performed correctly, are relatively effective and do some good for your muscles. Some are more effective than others, but one school of thought you can ignore is the idea that crunches are the only way to effectively train your core. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Try these four types of exercises to build a solid core.
- Traditional exercises are those that you are probably most familiar with, such as the standard crunch. Some variations of this include the standard crunch with rotation, which incorporates your internal and external obliques; or a standing rotation with a band or light hand weight.
- Functional exercises target most of the muscles within your abdominal wall and are performed by stabilizing your body while in motion. An example of such an exercise would be functional work on a stability ball, as your body is works to stay steady on the ball.
- Stabilizing exercises are best known for stabilizing your spine, drawing the transverse abdominal wall back into your spine and increasing lower back stability. Start by lying on the floor and pulling your belly back toward your spine. Holding that position while maintaining breathing deeply is an excellent exercise to start with. Once this is mastered, you can add movement such as a slow bridge or extending your leg while maintaining the drawn-in posture.
- Extension exercises are performed to strengthen the erector spinae in your back. Often times, back exercises are ignored when devising a core training program. However, it is an integral part of your core routine. A good exercise to start with for extension is lying on your stomach with your arms extended above your head. Then raise both arms and both legs, at the same time, off the floor. Hold for a count of five, or five breaths, and slowly return to the floor.
Portland Personal Training Examiner Amy Rutherford-Close became a Certified Personal Trainer to help others put their health first.
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