May 20, 2016

5 exercises to strengthen your core

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Do images of an athlete with six packed abs turn you down? A rounded chubby baby on your tummy is getting bombarded with comments from relatively leaner friends? Your formal shirt’s buttons are under a stressful situation and trying hard to stick to the hem of the shirt?

Core exercises are an important part of a well-rounded fitness program. The “Core” represents the functional unit of the muscles of the trunk and the muscles of the pelvic-hip region. Trunk muscles include the abdominal muscles and the back muscles, all of which attach to the bones of the spinal column and provide it with both flexibility and strength.

 

What does the core do?

Core muscles work together to provide a solid base from which all other muscles can work to initiate movement in the arms and the legs. Core stability is the name given to the dynamic interaction between these muscle groups.

 

Why is it important?

Core strength is your body’s powerhouse. Not only does it facilitate movement, but it also houses your inner organs and central nervous system. It helps in preventing injuries, banish back pain and gives you strong and confident posture.

 

How is the core important in injury prevention?

Strengthening these core muscles will absorb stresses put on the body. This is essential to prevent all forms of injury both in the lower back area and within the lower extremity, in particular, the knee. A Strong core allows the muscles to work more efficiently and together.

 

How does the core work in sports?

Football is one of the game along with gymnastic, swimming and running, which emphasize core muscles in their practice sessions because strong abs help them effectively kick, control the ball and complete full-body maneuvers on the field.  Any dynamic movement you make with your upper or lower body originates from the muscles in your core therefore when you need to generate power, these muscles work as a unit to help you achieve this.

 

Below are the benefits we gain from having a strong core:

  • Tightens the abdominal structures involved in movement and improves the transfer of power to and from the extremities.
  • Teaches the muscles to work together efficiently and effectively.
  • Aids in the prevention of injury by strengthening and improving the torso’s stabilization.
  • Facilitates proper distribution of weight and assists the body in the absorption of force and transfer of forces.
  • Enhances neuromuscular efficiency throughout the body and neuromuscular control for efficient movement and physical positioning.
  • Improves spinal and postural control while the body is still and in motion.

 

As we have already made our point, following Core exercises will help you get a stronger core muscle.

1. Bridging:1

i)   Lie on your back and keep your hands at your sides.
ii)  Lift your hip towards the ceiling while keeping your knees and thighs parallel.
iii) Hold the pose for 5 full breaths and release the back to the start position.
iv)  Repeat 5 times.

 

2. Plank:

i)   Get into pushup position on the floor.2
ii)  Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders, and your body should form a straight line from your head to your feet.
iii) Hold the position for as long as you can.
iv)  Repeat 5 times (one can do it any time of a day).

 

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3. Sit Ups:

i)   Lie on your back on the floor, have your knees bent and the balls of your feet and heels placed flat on the ground.
ii)  Place your hands behind your head, tighten your abdominal muscles gently by drawing in your belly button to your spine.
iii) Gently lift your head first, followed by your shoulder blades.
iv) Hold the position for a second and then Slowly bring the torso back to the floor.
v)  Repeat 5 times.

 

4. Lying Leg Raise: 4

i)   Lie on your back and keep your hands at your sides with your palms facing down.
ii)  Keep your legs as straight as possible and Slowly raise your legs perpendicular to the floor.
iii) Hold the contraction at the top for a second, then slowly lower your legs to the start position.
iv) Repeat 5 times.

 

5. Crunch:5

i)   Lie on your back on the floor, have your knees bent and the balls of your feet and heels placed flat on the ground.
ii)  Cross your arms in front of your chest. You can also place your hands behind your neck or head.
iii) Lift your shoulders towards the ceiling using your abdominal muscles.
iv) When your shoulders are off the ground, pause and hold that position for a full second then go back to initial position.
v)  Repeat 5 times.

 

Stretches to strengthen back are also important when one wants to strengthen the back muscle and it is good to improve your posture. It further gives the base to core strengthening.

 

1. Cobra Stretch:6

i)          Lie down on stomach
ii)         Engage your glutes and slowly lift your torso off of the floor
iii)        Keep your hips and pelvis down on the floor
iv)        Lift your head back and look at the ceiling
v)         Repeat 5 times

 

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2. Frontal Core Stretch:

i)          Stand with feet hip-width apart and tighten your abdominal muscles.
ii)         Shift your hips to the right while reaching overhead with your right arm.
iii)        Hold the position for one full breath and go back to initial position.
iv)        Repeat the exercise with the left Do the sets 10 times.

 

 

3. Backward Bending: This is an especially good stretch for the people sitting at a desk for more than 4 hours.8

i)          Stand up and place hands on the top of buttocks, just below the waist.
ii)         Keep your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes turned slightly out.
iii)        Bend backward and hold you position for 3 seconds
iv)        Come back to initial position and repeat 5 times.

 

 

Do not forget to warm up before doing exercises, that will put the muscles in working mode. Increase the intensity of the exercises and stretching slowly and steadily. Listen to your body and push yourself accordingly. Always remember, At the CORE of your FITNESS, is the FITNESS of your CORE.

For further information about the core exercises and building your core with the game of football click HERE!

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written by Anoop Sreekanthan Nair

A die - hard Manchester United fan, Anoop worships Sir Alex Ferguson. When he isn't following footballers, he makes them fit. A Sports Physio and a wellness expert, he has published his research in International Journal for Research and Reviews. Anoop has also worked with various Hospitals, Fitness Centres and Footbal clubs, including our very own I-league's Viva Kerala.

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