A strong body starts with a strong core, but did you know your core is so much more than just your 'six pack'? Your core is a complex series of muscles that includes your pelvic floor, obliques, glutes, lats, traps, diaphragm and abdominals that acts as your body’s central stabilizer. A strong core will help you do just about everything from prevent injury, protect your central nervous system, alleviate back pain and help improve your posture. Here are 5 tips to help you build a strong core.
1. Brace during resistance training
Bracing is a technique used to engage your inner and outer core unit. Think about your body’s natural response if someone was about to punch you in the gut. The natural response is usually to tense or brace your core. Try adopting the bracing technique during resistance training to ensure your core gets a workout every single time (especially while squatting, deadlifting or pressing). As a bonus you’ll also have greater protection of your spine and have the potential to lift more weight.
2. Reduce Inflammation
Gut health can have a real impact on the way your core functions. Inflammation can cause muscles to switch off, meaning that your core becomes dysfunctional. If you regularly feel bloated or feel pain or cramping in your stomach, chances are you have inflammation. Strategies for reducing inflammation include drinking an adequate amount of water daily, eating more real food and less food like products (foods that were grown/found in nature rather than foods that were made in a factory) and limiting alcohol and excess sugars. Food intolerances and allergies may also lead to inflammation. Common intolerances include gluten and lactose. It’s always best to consult a doctor to find out if you have any food intolerances or allergies.
3. Unstable surface training
Unstable surface training requires your core to engage to restore stability in the body. Try integrating TRX suspension training, swiss balls and bosu’s into your training as well as using more free weights and functional tools rather than pin loaded machines. Beach workouts are also great for your core as sand is an unstable surface (and who doesn’t love training on the beach!?).
4. Get comfortable being uncomfortable
Sick of doing crunches and planking every workout? A big mistake people make in the pursuit of a strong core is doing the same few exercises day after day. Your body will adapt to your training so you need to keep challenging it. Switch up your routine by exploring new exercises and mixing up your sets, reps and temp.
5. Chill out
Stress and sleep can have a significant impact on your hormones, energy levels, strength, digestion and inflammation. Don’t forget to catch some quality zzz’s and do things that you enjoy that reduce your stress levels. Consider regular massages, yoga, meditation or deep breathing exercises.