Core strengthening should be an integral part of everyone’s training regimen. Your core consists of several muscles coming together to support your spine and midsection. Those muscle groups include the rectus abdominis (abs), erector spinae (low back), internal and external obliques (on your sides), and transverse abdominis (the deepest muscle layer of the abdominals). Some experts also include the gluteus maximus/minimus (your rear end) pelvic floor muscles, and subscapcular stabilizers in the group of core muscles. All of the mentioned muscles come together to help you to do trunk rotations, lean forward and backward, and to maintain good posture. Your core is hard at work all day long, every day. Therefore, it is important to do weekly strengthening and stretching of these muscle groups.
Your core is directly related to your balance, strength, and power. So, you should be performing exercises that challenge these 3 components of physical fitness. Strengthening your core will lead to better balance, posture, and stability. Having a strong core can lower your risk of injury and may help to reduce low back pain. Strong core muscles can help to improve athletic performance such as swinging a golf club, getting up on water skis, or keeping good balance while in-line skating. Core strengthening also helps to improve daily activities such as picking up your child, carrying groceries, or doing yard work.
In order to strengthen your core, you must do exercises that use the trunk of your body without support. Perform exercises seated on a fitness ball, standing or kneeling on a BOSU, standing on a balance disk, and standing on one leg. Performing a variety of planks and bridges will also help to improve your overall core strength.
I recommend two days a week of core strengthening exercises. You should also try to do your resistance training using a fitness ball and BOSU. For example, instead of using a bench for chest presses, lay down on a fitness ball and do dumbbell chest presses. Laying down on a bench does not engage your core. However, laying down on a ball makes you off balance which then requires your body to automatically engage your core in order to maintain balance. Another example is standing on one leg or standing on a balance disk while performing a basic biceps curl. You are required to maintain balance and strengthen your core while strengthening your biceps. Any exercise performed off balance will help to directly strengthen your core.
Do yourself a favor and work your core. Over time, with consistent training, you will see improvements in posture, balance, power, and overall strength. Remember, the core is the center of all you do so be sure not to neglect these muscles when you hit the gym.