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Core Strength

Train your body in a functional way


Updated May 16, 2014

How to build core strength
Felix Hug Collection/The Image Bank/Getty Images

One of the hot buzzwords flying around the gym these days is 'core strength.' While dancers and athletes have long known the advantages of having a strong torso, the idea of core strength is only now trickling down to the rest of us.

You may be wondering what exactly is core strength and why should you worry about it? One reason is this: all of our movements are powered by the torso--the abs and back work together to support the spine when we sit, stand, bend over, pick things up, exercise and more. The torso is the body's center of power, so the stronger you are in that area, the easier your life will be.

What Is The Core?

When someone talks about the core, they're referring the muscles deep within the abs and back, attaching to the spine or pelvis. Some of these muscles include the transversus abdominis (TVA), the muscles of the pelvic floor, the lats and the obliques, just to name a few. These muscles are where movement originates and it's also the source of our stability. Whether you're running, lifting weights or picking up your toddler, these 'core' muscles help keep your body stable and balanced.

With this focus on core strength, the fitness industry has moved towards training the body as a whole, rather than focusing on separate muscle groups. This means incorporating torso training throughout your workout, rather than just doing the usual standard crunches. This type of functional training can be seen everywhere as more people use things like stability balls and wobble boards in their regular workouts.

Core training has many benefits including:

  • More functional workouts that translate into daily life activities
  • Improved performance in sports
  • Reduction in the risk of injury
  • Better ability to function each day
  • Interesting workouts that challenge you in new and different ways

Adding more functional training to your workouts is a simple matter. Read on to find out easy ways to increase your core strength.

Enhancing Your Core Strength

Incorporating more functional training into your workouts may be as simple as changing or adding new exercises to your usual routine. The following are just some ideas for making your ab/back workouts a little more dynamic:

For more exercise ideas, visit my Dynamic Abs workout or check out more of my Ab Workouts.

Another way to make your workouts more functional is to add new equipment to your exercises. Adding an element of balance will naturally engage your core and add a whole new dimension to your training. Some ideas include:

  • Stability Balls. You can use exercise balls in a variety of ways to challenge balance, stability and torso strength.
  • BOSU. This is an excellent piece of equipment that can be used for everything from cardio to sports specific training.
  • Wobble Boards. Adding a wobble board to your routine will help you with balance, stability, torso strength and coordination.
  • Yoga/Pilates. These types of exercises inherently challenge your balance, flexibility and torso strength, particularly Pilates.
  • Foam roller. Using a foam roller in your workouts will enhance balance, body awareness, flexibility and torso strength.

Now that we've covered the how's and why's of core strength, how about a new workout? This Mat Workout incorporates basic moves from yoga and Pilates to help you relax and work on your abs, back, flexibility, balance, body awareness and more. If you haven't tried yoga or Pilates, this workout is a great place to start. Enjoy!

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