I’ve been writing Beauty and Fitness articles for Glutenfreeda since 2001. From the beginning, I have often explored the principles and benefits of core fitness. Because core strength is such an important aspect of any fitness program, I decided to compile my favorite tips on achieving and maintaining core fitness and combine them in a single article. Here’s hoping you find some information to help you build core strength.
Improve your crunches: Endless crunches can be a waste of time without emphasis in the right places. A more productive approach mirrors the principles of Pilates. During abdominal mat work, strengthen your core muscles (abdominals, gluteals, and back muscles) by keeping focus on scooping the abdominal muscles inward, and keeping the “seat bones” on the mat. Centering yourself in this way before other mat exercises gives a much stronger result.
Eccentric Abdominal Curls: You can also get more out of your crunches by doing eccentric muscle work. Imagine yourself in position to perform a basic crunch. Lie on your back with knees bent. Exhale, and press your back into the mat. Look at your navel as you curl up. Keep your mid-section tucked in and your ribs pressing downward while reaching your torso upward in the crunch. (Hands are locked behind the head with elbows open wide.) At the top of the crunch, instead of quickly releasing the tension in your abdominal muscles, take eight seconds to return to your starting position. Maintain the tension in your mid-section all the way through the motion.
You can add all sorts of variations to this abdominal work. From the basic crunch position, reach upward with alternate, elbow-to-opposite-knee movements. Once you are at the top of the crunch, slow the movement way down. Hold the upright position and alternate elbows to opposite knees.
Don’t forget the transverse abdominus muscle: The transverse abdominus muscle plays a major role in defining a flat stomach. This muscle is attached to the rectus abdominus muscle on the front side of the body and to the spine at the back side. When you contract the transverse abdominus, it tugs your navel area toward your spine. A good visual for mastering the emphasis on this muscle group is to imagine a bolt that ties your belly button to your spine. By engaging the transverse abdominus, you bring in the muscles of the pelvic floor as well. Focus on these muscles and you will be stronger, with improved muscle tone and support.
Balance the work:
If you’re training abdominal muscles, balance the work with exercises that strengthen the opposing back muscles. Otherwise, an imbalance occurs. Without matching emphasis on the back muscles, the abdominal muscles will be ready to work and the opposing back muscles that are meant to work in support won’t be up to the task.
Include the basics:
The benefits of core strength will show up in lots of ways. The strength and flexibility you achieve will follow you to other sports and activities. Even the simple act of standing will feel better. As always, the best results will follow when you include all of the basics of fitness – stretching, strengthening, cardio training, and cool down.
- Pam Brooks