By Gordie Adam | Personal Trainer | Bannatyne Health Club Livingston
Jun 13, 2017
The core muscles are one of the most important (yet most neglected) muscle groups we have in our bodies. As a regular gym user I’m often asked “how much do you bench?” However I have never been asked “how long do you hold a plank for?” This sums up most people's attitude to core work, they want to have a six pack, improve fitness, muscle tone and strength but never think to actually train the group of muscles which will benefit them in all of these areas.
The core muscles are a lot more than your abs, they consist of several different muscles: internal and external obliques (sides of your abs), the diaphragm, the longissimus thoracis (back), the transverses abdominis (from back to front like a corset), multifidus (low back area), and rectus abdominis (your six pack). Minor muscles include the latissimus dorsi (back), gluteus maximus (your bum), and trapezius (back and neck).
So you can see these cover a huge area of your body and work as a base for all of the body’s movements. They do this by aligning the spine, ribs and pelvis which in turn lead to improved posture, improved balance, improved breathing and allow us to generate strength and power required to carry out almost every day-to-day task. This can be anything from mowing the lawn, unloading the washing machine to training in the gym.
There are many benefits of having a strong core aside from a flat stomach. Injury prevention, primarily lower back pain, is one of the major ones. As it is estimated 4 out of every 5 adults (80%) will experience back pain at some stage of their life₁. It is essential that everyone adds some core exercises into their week. The good news is that building strength in the core of the body does not require weights or gym machines and can be done at home in a relatively small space.
The three main exercises that I would recommend are:
Lie face up on the floor with your arms to the side, knees bent and feet on the ground. Lift hips until knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. Hold for two or three seconds. Repeat several times.
Lateral Pillar Bridge
Lie on your side with your forearm on the ground under your shoulder. Push your hip off the ground. Create a straight line from ankle to shoulder. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat several times.
Plank with arm lift
Start in a push up position with your feet roughly shoulder width apart. Without moving your torso, lift one arm up slightly. Hold for one to two seconds then switch arms. Repeat several times.
Performing these exercises once or twice a week for around 10-15 minutes will be challenging at first but will help improve your core strength massively over time. There are also endless ways in which you can progress these movements as you find them becoming easier by adding in various pieces of equipment such as stability balls, bosu balls and kettlebells.
Talk to a Bannatyne Personal Trainer to devise a plan that’s right for you and you’ll notice improvements in the way you look and feel. It may be challenging at first, but stick with it. Once you begin strengthening your core, you will notice an improvement in the way you look, feel and move through your day.
1. Palmer KT, Walsh K, et al. Back pain in Britain: comparison of two prevalence surveys at an interval of 10 years BMJ 2000;320:1577-1578