Physical exercise has been shown to improve both physical and mental health by reducing cortisol (stress hormone) levels and increasing the secretion of endorphins, chemicals that make you feel happy and relaxed. It is also known to boost productivity by enhancing creativity, decreasing learning time, and improving concentration.

As you scroll through social media pages, you will see myriad workouts that are all focused on “building abs”, “getting those attractively contoured abs” or “creating a six-pack.” 

While working on those abs for the looks may be important for a few, working up to better core strength is the actual key to overall fitness.

Let’s find out more about core strengthening. 

What is the “Core”? 

The core consists of the muscles of your trunk/midsection, or torso, surrounding the spine and pelvis. This includes the abdominal muscles at the front (the transverse abdominis, oblique muscles and rectus abdominis), but also muscles within the lower back, and around your sides. 

You use your core muscles while performing simple daily tasks like getting up from a chair, standing, walking, vacuuming and lifting things. 

These are also the key to maintaining a good posture, balancing your body by transferring force and weight from the centre to the limbs, and improving stability. The core is your powerhouse, if simply put. 

What Can Strengthen The Core?

Pilates and strength training is a great way to work your core muscles because they stabilise and strengthen your pelvic floor as well as all your core muscles. 

Planks and their variations, hip bridges for the glutes, the cat camel stretch, and functional training like deadlifts, crunches, squats, burpees, and jumping jacks are very helpful. 

It is never too late to start working out and your body weight is the best tool. You can also use simple exercise equipment like a rubber band or exercise ball. 

Your core strength is determined by several factors, and mindfully personalising your workout to target all muscles can help build and strengthen them.

Is it Possible to Work on The Core With a Weak Back?

Core strength is the ‘core’ of most exercises, even the ones that are not particularly targeting the abs. For example, if your hips are sagging or you are not able to get your spine in line with your lower limbs and shoulder while doing push-ups, or your back hurts during a deadlift, you can attribute it to a weak core. 

It is rather common for those performing workouts that include crunches, planks, and sit-ups to feel a sharp pain in the back. However, studies state that it is the other way around: a weak back equals a weak core. 

In this scenario, the safe, effective and efficient way to work and strengthen your core is by using your body weight as resistance with proper form, gradually working your way up to adding weights, and increasing your range of motion and speed. 

As your body gets sensitised, it adapts and builds strength so that you can layer on bigger movements and weights while being mindful about the correct posture at all times.

Understanding one’s own body (range of motion and extent to which one can push) and the physiology of the movements is extremely crucial. 

For example, Russian twists or sit-ups can cause a lot of flexion and rotation of the spine, causing more damage if done too frequently or incorrectly. If you are still in doubt, it is best to seek professional help from either your doctor or physiotherapist to help you determine the best set of exercises.

Exercises That Can Help Improve Your Core Strength

Go with 3 rounds or sets with 21 reps of these core-sculpting exercises:

  • Deadlifts 

  • Dead bugs (with or without kettlebell).

  • Abdominal crunches and presses.

  • Standing knee to elbow crunches.

  • Planks and its variations (forearm, side and with leg raises).

  • Russian twists with/without additional weights.

  • Bridge (weighted or unweighted).

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.