Core strength is essential. You use your core for almost everything you do. Building a fitter core helps you look thinner and also supports your spine, helping with things like balance.
Your core muscles are also connected to your legs, affecting the the way you stand and sit. Training your core doesn’t just strengthen the ab muscles, it also helps to increase strength in your back, glutes and the entire area connected to your spinal cord.
Developing and maintaining a strong core helps to ensure that other areas of the body will work more harmoniously, promoting better posture and preventing back pain.
You’ve probably at least heard of the plank exercise – it’s become increasing popular for building core strength because it’s so effective. This static exercise, which simply means the body stays in one position for the entire move, is especially outstanding because it requires no equipment and can be performed almost anywhere.
Your ability to perform a plank can even help you determine your current fitness level and provide a clue into potential health risks. According to Dr. Mercola, if you can’t hold the plank for two minutes, you need to work on your core strength. It might also indicate that you’re carrying too much weight.
If you haven’t performed the plank exercise before, it’s important to start out slowly and work your way up to where you can hold the pose for about two minutes. Doing too much too soon can lead to an injury.
If you experience any neck or lower back pain while doing the exercise, it could indicate a weakness in the upper or lower regions of the spine. If your core is too weak, the spine will sag which causes compression in the vertebrae, pressure on the vertebral discs, and/or shoulder joint inflammation, according to personal trainer Estelle Underwood.
To perform the basic plank:
Start off on a yoga mat in the pushup position. Lower your forearms to the ground so that your elbows and fists lie flat on the mat. Curl up your toes with your heels in the air. Straighten your body, keeping your neck and spine neutral.
You are trying to make a straight line from your heels to the back of your head – like you are imitating a plank of wood. While holding this position, you will be flexing your abdominal muscles and your glutes until you can’t hold the position anymore (again, being careful not to go too long). During the plank exercise make sure to keep your eyes on the floor in front of you and avoid raising your back side.
If you’re hoping for a “six-pack,” planking will help build inner core muscles that lay the groundwork, though if you are overweight, you will need to shed fat first. For men, you’ll have to get body fat down to about six percent, and women around nine percent in order to achieve that classic look.
Even if you don’t care whether or not you have a six-pack, doing planks will help you build a strong core for life – essential for overall health and fitness.
-The Alternative Daily