Having a strong core is more than just having a 6-pack to show off. In fact, visible abs do not always equate to a strong core.
Your core wraps around your entire midsection, or trunk, surrounding the spine, abdominal viscera and hip. Your core muscles are essential for proper load balance within the spine, pelvis and kinetic chain. Your core is in charge of stabilizing and controlling the pelvis and spine also influencing your legs and upper body during every day activities and exercising. When some people think core strength, they think about a visible, chiseled six-pack and power. However, a strong core is less about the power and rockin' abs (I mean, they do look nice), but it's more about being able to maintain your body in ideal postures, unload the joints and help make moving around easier.
Think: When you get up and off the floor to play with your kids, stand up from your chair, sitting at your work desk, cleaning the house, exercising, walking and more, you are using lots of core strength. Keeping your core engaged throughout the day and maintaining good posture will help keep you mindful and safe. When we say "engage" it means drawing the abs in, or hollowing them, to target your deep spinal stabilizers and transverse abdominis (deep core muscles).
During exercise, engaging looks a little different when your trainer tells you to do a crunch or side plank. The core also includes the pelvic floor musculature, and maintaining core stability can help treat and prevent certain types of incontinence.
All-in-all, a strong core helps with: injury prevention, reduction of back pain, improved lifting mechanics, balance, stability, posture and more. Plus, (ahem, ladies) strengthened core muscles support your pelvic floor and help control leaking. Here are some exercises you can include in your workout and ask your trainer about:
Bridges. Works the entire back of your legs and your glutes, plus your core and abs.
Planks. Planks create contractions of the core, arm and shoulder muscles as you stay in a push-up position.
Bird Dogs. This opposite arm and leg raise exercise gets you on your hands and knees, and is great for working the erector spinae, rectus abdominis and glutes. These muscles allow for correct movement, control and stability of the whole body.
Flutter Kicks. If you want to particularly target your lower abs, then you must include this in your daily exercise regimen.
Supermans. Strengthens the erector spinae muscles and other surrounding muscles to support your spine, promote good posture and reduce injury.
Reverse Planks. Works your abdominal muscles, including the rectus abdominis, and posterior chain (back side!)
Side Planks. These can be altered to your level, beginner to advanced, and that's one reason we love them. They help develop a strong, stable core while strengthening your glutes, hips and shoulders.
Dead Bug. Great if you are experiencing low back pain. It involves lying on your back, raising and lowering opposite arms and legs with your back flat and abdominal muscles engaged (belly button in!)