Having a strong core is perhaps one of the most important aspects of functional fitness. Not only does core training helps you in your ability to support your spine, but it also optimises force transfer – how does moving faster and being stronger sound? This can make activities that require balancing, such as skiing, dancing and doing yoga, easier. Try upping your core workout game with the suggested tips and tweaks below.
1. Breathe right
Breathing seems almost intuitive. However, staying focused and consciously breathing at the right moment will help you maximise your workout results. While this step is often dismissed, breathing out as you contract your abs, and inhaling as you return to the starting position is crucial. Additionally, please do not hold your breath when doing your work outs! You will be surprised, but many people subconsciously hold their breath when performing difficult workouts. This makes it tough to generate the force necessary for intensity purposes and can cause you to fatigue faster.
Your core’s key role is to prevent unnecessary movement and to transfer the force between the upper and lower body. As such, destabilising your body forces your muscles to work harder in an attempt to stabilise it. You can use an exercise ball for your planks or even perform them with one leg. Tools such as resistance bands can also be used to force your core musculature to work harder in maintaining stability.
3. Keep it interesting
Engage your core differently to see results. Switch things up regularly such that your muscles cannot anticipate what is next. Try working your core from various angles and positions to see progress. If you’ve been doing all your core work lying down, try doing in a half-kneeling position or while hanging from a pull-up bar. Don’t focus solely on trunk flexion when it comes to core work either; anti-extension and anti-rotation are effective training protocols to bear in mind.
4. Slow and steady
Going slow places tension on your muscles such that you get the most out of your workout. Avoid using momentum to pile on the repetitions. Not only could it lead to injuries, but it can also disrupt the mind-muscle connection necessary for isolation work. Use accentuated tempos to maximise the amount of tension and the quality of the contraction per repetition.
5. Do back extensions
Your core is not limited to your abs. Your entire back and glutes are also part of your core. Many tend to forget about the importance of spinal erectors when it comes to strength to injury prevention. The big lifts – squats and deadlifts – require a strong posterior chain for them to be performed efficiently. A back injury is also one of the easiest ways to de-motivate someone from training. Focusing on the posterior chain also supports good posture, which carries over well to just about every aspect of daily life.
Whenever doing your core workouts or any other workouts, remember that injuries can be avoided with both good technique and proper activation of the core muscles. By prioritising quality over quantity, you can easily double the effects of your core work while reducing the amount of time spent. Give it a shot and enjoy the results!