Strong abdominal muscles improve your stability, reduce back pain and contribute to your functional strength for daily activities.
However doing the wrong kind of core exercises can result in injuries, restricted mobility wiithout any improvement on your performance or looks.
This is why is so important to understan how your core muscles work, how to train properly and what are the best core exercises to perform.
This article we will takle these three subjects:
- First we will describe the main abdominal muscles and their functions
- Second we will tell you the secrets of an effective core workout.
- Third we will give you a list of the 15 best core strengthening exercises, all of them with videos to learn a proper technique.
As a final bonus we give you an optimal core strengthening rutine.
Classical Greek heroes and figures featured prominent abs.
Since then, we have continued to associate abdominal muscles with health, strength and beauty.
That’s why there are a thousand advertisements that promise you flat abs:
- Accessories (such as cushions, abdominal machines and ab wheels)
- Devices (such as electrostimulators)
- Methods (8 minutes abs, Runtastic 6 pack, etc.)
Traditionally, these exercises and accessories focus on stable and low-mobility ab workouts. Lying on the floor and flexing the spine to work on a focused area in the center of the abdomen.
These workouts neglect the main function of the core muscles. They don’t work the abs in a way that the body understands and thus is does not allocate resources to to their growth.
The abdominal muscles stabilize the body, protect the back and deploy strength.
The movements of our extremities originate in our core.
This is the reason boxers need strong abs if they want to hit hard. They also protect key organs for our survival: contracting during an attack.
Muscles of the abdominal area
The abdominal muscles overlap one another.
Their fibers cross over, which gives stability to our entire core.
It also keeps the viscera in place, aids in breathing, and protects the spinal column.
Let’s do brief review the main muscles of the abdomen.
Oblique muscles of the abdomen
The external oblique is a broad, thin and superficial muscle. It is the biggest of the three muscles that form the lateral anterior part of the abdomen.
The internal oblique lays just below of the external it’s smaller and it’s fibers run perpendicular to its larger brother.
The function of these muscles is to pull the chest downwards. The contraction of one side will cause a lateral flexion of the body. If both sides contract, your chest pulls downward in a bend.
They also asist breathing during exhalation.
Transverse abdominal muscle
The transverse muscles are the deepest of all the core muscles. They provide stability to the entire lumbar region.
They have two functions. The first is to perform the rotation of the trunk when only one of them is contracted. The second occurs when contracting both of them, which causes you to exhale.
Straight muscle of the abdomen
The most famous of the abdominal muscles, it’s what creates a six pack. Its function is trunk flexion, but they also look good!
Iliopsoas (Hip Flexor)
This abdominal muscle is an important one that isn’t visible. It is the muscle most related to the protection and stability of the spine and rotation of the trunk.
3 Key Functions of Abdominal Muscles
Anchor point: The muscles of the abdomen offer a stable anchor point to the rest of the body.
Coordination: Abdominal muscles offer optimal coordination with other muscle groups. This gives us an optimized range of movement of the limbs and back. So you get the greatest amount of strength with the lowest amount of expended energy.
Protection: A toned abdominal wall helps protect the internal organs. They’re like the ribs of the intestines.
The secrets on how to make core strengthening exercises effective
- Choose exercises that you can do with good technique. As explained before, the core creates good posture. If your exercise technique is bad, your posture can be affected.
- Choose workouts that move you in lots of directions. Remember that we have more core muscles than the straight muscle of the abdomen. You will need to exercise extensions and rotations to workout all of them.
- Exhale as you workout. Especially if you are a girl, you don’t want to generate too much pressure and weaken your pelvic floor. In fact, it’s good to explore hypopressive exercises.
- Make sure your core is stable. To check it, maintain a plank position and see how long it takes for you to start trembling.
- If less than 30 seconds, you should start with some basic exercises.
- If between 30 and 75 seconds, then you have a regular core and you can do a combination of simple exercises and one or two difficult ones.
- If between 75 and 120 seconds, you have a healthy core. 50% of the exercises in your routine can be difficult exercises.
- More than 120 seconds and you have a strong core. your routine can include up to 75% of exercises that are difficult.
- Remember that core exercises must meet three essential requirements:
- They should control your posture
- Stability in positions
- Strength in movements.
Best practices for core strengthening exercises
- Work abs with your limbs. Remember that your abs are the anchor point of your limb movement. Use unilateral loads so you work out your trunk.
Also, difficult flexing and pulling arm exercises are demanding for your abs.
- Do balance exercises. The abs are integral in maintaining your posture. Balancing exercises on unstable surfaces will work them a lot.
If you don’t believe us, try it! Keep your balance on any unstable site and feel your abs work.
- Wake up your abs with a few taps. The abs serves as protection, so a direct tap while you work them should signal that they should improve.
It does not need to be strong, simple touches serve as a reminder.
- Forget the 500 repetitions (at least at the beginning) If you think about it, it does not make sense to repeat the same movement 500 times. Instead, you should try to try to reach exhaustion with less repetitions. Increase intensity, position and loads. You will see how much more effective it is.
- Diet is essential. Remember the hard work you put into your core strengthening exercises won’t be visible unless you also add in a good diet to cut fat around your middle.
The 15 best core strengthening exercises at home
One of the easiest and most effective core strengthening exercises.
Place the body face down, supporting yourself by the forearms and the tips of the feet on the floor.
Keep legs, trunk and head stretched out in a line parallel to the ground.
From the plank position, alternate knee and hip flexion trying to touch the elbow with the knee.
From the plank position, alternate an extension of an arm and the opposite leg (e.g. extends right leg and left arm).
From the plank position, drop the pelvis until it touches the ground. Then raise it to the maximum trunk flexion.
One hand swing
This exercise is complex and consists of three phases:
- Start in the standing position. Jump up and extend your hands above your head and then do a full squat.
- Sit on the ground and extend your body until you are laying on the floor with your arms stretched over your head.
- Reverse movement 2 and come back to the squat position.
- From position 3, stand and jump up, extending your arms above your head.
- Come back down into a squat and repeat.
Spider Push Ups
Perform a push up with a movement where a leg seeks to touch the elbow on the same side. Then alternate legs.
Sit-Ups with Extension
Start with your back at 45 degrees from the floor, your legs bent and your feet together and flat on the floor. Lift your trunk upright as if you were going to sit down.
Sit-Ups with Rotation
Start the exercise sitting on the floor from a semi-flexed position. Lean back while balancing and keep your feet and trunk off the ground.
Rotate your trunk sideways until you touch both hands on the ground. Switch sides.
Count a repetition each time you touch the floor with your hands on both sides of the body.
Stretch on the floor face up and support your hands on the ground on either side of your hips. From this position, elevate your legs and extend them while stretching your trunk back. Keep balance on your butt.
From here, bring the knees to the chest by flexing the legs and flexing the trunk forward. Go back to the starting position.
V Sit -Ups
Stretch on the floor face up with your arms stretched out over your head.
Lift your legs and arms until you touch your feet with your hands.
Return to the starting position by keeping your feet and hands slightly raised from the floor.
- Lie face down in Mckenzie’s position, (legs resting arms stretched out stretching the back).
- Bring your feet up to your hands, legs are as stretched as possible.
- Jump again to recover the starting position.
- Lie face down in Mckenzie’s position, (legs resting arms stretched out stretching the back).
- Bring a knee to the height of the hand of the same side.
- Return to the initial position and repeat the same movement with the other leg.
Grab a bar with your fingers facing forward. With your arms stretched, drop your weight and hang on the bar. From here, flex the elbows and raise the whole body until the chin is at the height of the bar. Go back to the starting position.
Core strengthening exercise routine
Session Name: To The One
Session type: Intervalic without Stops
Complete in a decreasing pyramid (10 to 1 reps) the following set of exercises, decreasing the number of reps in each set by 1 until you do only one.
- Spider Push-Ups
- Plank Pivots
- One Hand Swings
10 Burrols, 10 Spider Push-ups, 10 Plank Pivots, 10 One Hand Swings, 9 Burrols, 9 Spider Pushups..
After finishing the workout, perform a 5 minute session of hypopressive exercises.