5 Exercises to Improve Core Strength
Proper posture helps maintain a structurally stable body. But how do you achieve proper posture? Well, it all begins in the core. The core is the center of the body and where all movement begins. The core consists of the muscles of the hips, abdominals, and low back. These are some of our largest muscles groups, and provide the human body with the structural integrity it needs to function.
When these muscles are strengthened, they protect your back from potential injury and can alleviate most existing back problems and help to take undue load off of your joints and spine by helping the body to work more efficiently.
To achieve ideal performance, it is necessary to condition and prepare the whole body as a link system with all its parts working together. Each exercise below will allow you to develop strength in the deepest muscles of the body by controlling gravity, posture, and balance. Some of the exercises might look simple, but understand that they all have a specific purpose for increasing core strength and low back stabilization.
The 100. This exercise is called the 100 because you do the exercise for 100 beats. It is for breathing, getting the blood flowing, and strengthening your abdominals and torso.
- Lie on your back with your legs bent at a right angle. Draw your belly in like you are pressing it into the mat beneath you.
- Bring your head up with your chin to your chest, looking at your belly button, and stretch your arms forward like you are trying to reach to the wall across from you.
- Pump your arms up and down rapidly keeping them straight and strong. Inhale for 5 counts, exhale for 5 counts. You want to try and complete 10 sets.
The Roll Up. This exercise strengthens your core while stretching your hamstrings and back.
- Lie on your back, stretching your arms up behind you. Your legs can be straight on the mat, or you can bend your knees if you need to modify.
- Reach your arms to the ceiling and round your chin onto your chest. Continue to roll up one vertebra at a time. At the top, stretch forward with your belly button into your spine.
- Squeeze your knees and buttocks together and curl your spine as you roll back down one vertebra at a time. Repeat this 6 times. Try to keep your lower body stable and on the mat.
Rolling Like a Ball. This exercise will improve your balance, and will massage your back.
- Sit on your tailbone with your knees bent, but slightly apart. Hold your ankles with your hands and lift the feet up so you are balancing on your tailbone.
- Keep the elbows out to the side so you do not lift your shoulders up. Keep your chin tucked to your chest and round your back by pulling your navel to your spine. Fall back rolling to the shoulders, and roll back up to the tailbone.
- Remember, do not throw your head back or kick your feet up. Stay as round as a ball, feeling each vertebra touch the mat in order, on the way back and the way up. Do this 10 times.
Double Leg Straight. These next two exercises are part of the stomach series. This exercise works your powerhouse to the extreme! It works your entire core while fueling the stretch in the hamstrings.
- Lie on your back with your hands behind your head (one on top of the other — do not lace your fingers). Stretch your legs right up to the ceiling and turn the thighs out slightly to form the Pilates V. Your inner thighs should be squeezing tightly together and the negative space of your feet should from a V.
- Press your navel in to your spine like you are securing it to the mat beneath you and raise your head and shoulders off the mat keeping your chin to your chest. Keep squeezing your inner thighs and butt.
- Lower your legs down toward the mat ONLY AS FAR AS YOU CAN KEEP YOUR NAVEL IN. DO NOT ARCH YOUR BACK. Then exhale and bring your legs back up to the ceiling and keeping your tailbone on the mat. Repeat this 8-10 times.
Criss Cross. This exercise works the obliques and increases flexibility in the back, hips, and torso.
- Keep your hands behind your head without lacing them and bend your knees to your chest.
- Extend the right leg and twist your upper body bringing your right elbow to the left knee. Look back to the left elbow. Make sure your upper back and shoulders are not touching the mat.
- Now bend the right knee and extend the left leg bringing your left elbow to your right knee and look back at your right elbow.
- Keep pulling your abs in and do not let them push out. Repeat this for 8-10 sets.