Last updated on July 26th, 2022 at 09:07 pm
The core muscles work together to align the pelvis and keep the spine stable. The most common reason for being interested in core stability training is to improve ab tone, but there are lots of other benefits (see below). Although any muscles that are involved in stabilising the pelvis can be included in the term “core muscles”, when we talk about core training, we usually mean the layers of ab muscle below the “6-pack”. These are the muscles that this workout focuses on. The workout includes 8 of the best core stability exercises in a 10 minute routine that you should ideally do 3 times a week.
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Benefits of core stability training
- Better abdominal tone – strong core muscles lead to flat abs.
- Strong muscles supporting the spine, which helps to reduce back pain and injury.
- Improvement to bad posture habits, such as low back arching and hunched shoulders.
- When the pelvis is properly aligned, balance and coordination improve.
- Increased flexibility in the spine and muscles attaching to the pelvis, which makes movement smoother and easier and reduces the risk of injury.
Best core stability exercises workout
In all the exercises in this workout, you should be using your core muscles to keep your pelvis in a stable position, rather than letting it tilt forwards or backwards as you move. This challenges and therefore strengthens the core muscles.
Before you start this workout please read these general exercise guidelines.
You’ll need some sort of cushioning for your spine – ideally an exercise mat, or alternatively a folded blanket or quilt.
The first step in core training is understanding what “neutral pelvis” is and how to maintain your pelvis in neutral while you do the exercises. The pelvis needs to be able to tilt forwards and backwards as we move. However, over time inactivity and bad posture can lead to it being at rest in a forward or backward position. The forward position is quite common in women, especially after pregnancy. In order to understand what neutral pelvis is, follow these instructions:
8 best core stability exercises – instructions
#1 Single leg stretch
- Lay on the floor with your arms by your side, your legs about hip distance apart and your pelvis in neutral.
- Bring both knees in towards your chest, then extend one leg as shown. Your core muscles should be working to hold onto neutral (ie stopping your back from arching).
- Now bring the leg back and repeat on the other leg.
- Keep going until you’ve done 10 on each leg.
#2 Russian twist
This exercise will be more effective if you do it with a weight. You can use a single dumbbell or a kettlebell. A weight between 2-5lb (1-2kg) is a good level to start at. Alternatively, if you don’t have any weights, you can improvise with a bottle of water.
- Start by sitting with a straight back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, about hip distance apart. If you’re using a weight of any sort, hold it in both hands.
- Engage your abdominal muscles and lower your back towards the floor, until it is at about 45° to the floor. Hold this position. You will feel your abs working.
- Keep your head facing forwards as you rotate in your upper back to reach your arms to one side.
- Now rotate your back to reach the arms to the other side.
- Keep rotating side to side until you’ve done 10 to each side.
#3 Elbow plank
- Lay on your side, with your legs extended in a straight line.
- Take your forearm to 90° with your body, your hand making a fist.
- Engage your core muscles and lift your upper body so that your forearm is supporting you, making sure your shoulder is directly above your elbow.
- Hold this position for 20 seconds.
- Then lower your upper body to the floor and rest for a few seconds before changing sides.
#4 Pilates rolling like a ball
- Sit on the floor. Balancing on your hip bones, bring your knees towards your chest and put your hands on your lower legs. Point your toes.
- Keeping a curve in your spine and your chin tucked in, engage your core muscles and roll backwards.
- When your upper back is on the floor, contract your core and buttock muscles strongly to start to roll back to the starting position.
- Repeat until you’ve done 10.
- This should be a SMOOTH, CONTROLLED movement. The spine gradually makes and releases contact with the floor, one vertebra at a time.
- The ball shape you make should stay the same throughout the movement.
- Don’t roll onto your neck – start to reverse the movement once your upper back is on the floor.
#5 Spine twist
- Sit with a straight back and straight legs. (If you have tightness at the back of your legs, bend them slightly so that you can keep your back straight).
- Raise your arms up to shoulder height, engage your abdominal muscles and rotate your upper body to the right.
- Come back to the centre and keep turning to the left.
- Repeat until you’ve done 5 to each side.
- Lay on the floor with your pelvis in neutral and your knees bent.
- Keeping your knees bent, bring your legs towards your body until your thighs are vertical.
- Straighten your legs.
- Making sure you keep your pelvis in neutral, lower and lift one leg at a time, until you have done 10 on each leg.
#7 Mountain climber
- Get into an all-4s position on the floor. Make sure your hands are directly below your shoulders.
- Take your legs out behind, keeping your back slightly curved.
- Now bring one knee at a time in towards your arms.
- Repeat for 10 on each leg.
#8 V sit
- Lay on the floor with your pelvis in neutral and lift both legs to a 45o angle with the floor.
- Lift your upper body and reach your hands towards your feet.
- Lower back down to the floor and repeat for a total of 10.
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Ab workouts FAQ
Last updated on May 20th, 2022 at 08:42 am
The stock answer to this is that you can’t get rid of fat from a specific area. This is repeated frequently and emphatically by almost everyone involved in fitness. Given that it’s the go-to answer, you would think that there’s a pile of evidence to support it. In fact, the evidence is surprisingly weak. On the other hand, there’s no evidence that you can exercise to burn fat from a specific area either.
What we do know for sure is that our bodies have preferred places to store fat – and the abdominal area is one of them. So you’re not likely to have a fat-free belly until you’re a healthy weight. The best way to be a healthy weight is of course to have a healthy diet and to exercise regularly. Any exercise helps with weight control.
Even if it doesn’t burn belly fat, regular ab exercise will make a difference though. The deep core muscles pull the abdominal area flat and having a strong core can make a real difference. In fact it’s often the case that what people think is fat is just poor muscle tone allowing the abdomen to protrude.
So, the best things you can do to look slimmer around your middle are to make sure you’re a healthy weight and do some core training.
Plank holds have been an enormously popular abs exercise for years now. This is probably due to the buzz surrounding the exercise in the form of challenges and extreme hold times, rather than being due to its merits as an effective exercise.
Done correctly, the plank will engage the deepest abdominal muscle, the transverse abdominis (TA). This is the one that plays the biggest part in pulling the abdominal area in flat, as well as playing an important role in pelvic and spinal stability. It’s a challenging exercise and most people will struggle to hold the correct position for more than a minute. These are the good points. However, the plank has its drawbacks:
- Doing it with correct technique is difficult for those who are not used to core training. To be effective, the back and legs must form a straight line (like a plank). Inexperienced exercisers fail to do this.
- It’s a static exercise (ie the muscles are held contracted). There are two problems with static exercises. One is that the muscles are only worked in one position and the other is that it causes blood pressure to increase.
- It’s not functional – we do nothing vaguely resembling the plank in every day life. If we want to train our TA to engage when we’re active, then holding it in a static contraction isn’t the best way.
So should you do plank holds? Yes, it’s good to add them to your abs routine sometimes or to do a plank challenge for variety. But you should make sure your technique is correct and you shouldn’t waste your workout time trying to build up excessively long holds.
As with most “best exercise” questions, the answer depends on what you’re trying to achieve. The two main goals people have are flat abs and 6 pack abs. To have a flat abdominal area you need to train the deeper abdominal muscles. This is done by doing core stabilising exercises. The 6 pack muscles are the top layer of ab muscles and are trained by crunches and similar exercises – any exercise in which the upper body and lower body come closer together against a resistance. If you want to train all your ab muscles, bicycle crunches are a good all-round exercise.
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