Abs, Obliques, Lumbar Muscles And More!
Think you can build core strength by cranking out crunches? Think again. Strengthening your core -- abdominals, obliques, lumbar muscles and other muscles -- actually involves much more than just your usual two or three sets of ab crunches. Having solid core muscles puts you at less risk for back injury and gives you a sexy midsection.
About your core muscles
The core is comprised of many muscles that wrap around your midsection, including your back, obliques and abs. Your core muscles supply about 60 percent of your body's overall power. Getting a solid core can perfect your posture, reduce your risk of back pain, trim belly fat and enhance your overall muscle strength.
DEFINING THE CORE
Exactly what – and where – is your core? A common misconception is that the core is simply made up of your abs and lower back. In truth, six-pack abs do not necessarily translate to a rock solid core. That is because the core is actually comprised of a whopping 29 muscles that connect and support the pelvis and spine. These include big ones like the rectus abdominis (also known as the six-pack or abs), lats and glutes as well as many more that are deeply buried beneath other muscles.
BENEFITS OF A STRONG CORE
All of the core muscles make a collaborative effort to stabilize and support your spine, keeping you upright, well-balanced and agile (it's no surprise, then, that pro athletes like Tiger Woods and Serena Williams claim their games have improved because of core work). Experts also say those with solid cores have less back pain and are at lower risk for future injury in that area. And by focusing on the entire core, you can stave off that dreaded spare tire around your midsection.
WORK THE CORE MUSCLES
No matter how many crunches you crank out a day, if that's all you do, you are largely ignoring the other aspects of your core – including spinal muscles.
Posture: The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that you pay special attention to your core area by perfecting your posture – which you can practice anywhere. While you are standing in line at the grocery store or plugging away at work, simply stand or sit up straight, pulling your stomach in and tightening your glutes while rising up from your lower pelvis. Other options include posture-and core-focused workouts like Pilates or yoga.
Core exercises: Repeat each of the following core exercises five times, gradually building up to 10 to 15 reps as your strength improves.
Bridge (works various core muscles in combination:
More on midsection workouts
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