The Core of Your Workout

No matter what your workout plan is, there is one exercise that should be included in every one of them: Your core.

The core consists of four muscles: the rectus abdominis, external abdominal oblique, transverse abdominis, and internal abdominal oblique. You use these muscles in every exercise you do, even if you don’t realize it. They work together to stabilize and protect your body from injury, so keeping them strong is vital.

Weak core muscles will force your body to rely on other muscles and cause overuse injuries. A common weak-core injury is a lower back strain. When you’re doing a movement like a squat or deadlift, core muscles help the back stay in a neutral, stabilized position. In the case of a weak core, the lower back muscles over-compensate to lift the weight. Overtime, this will lead to lower back strain, and possibly pain in the glutes and hip flexors.

Keep a strong core when you make these exercises a consistent part of your workout routine.

Plank

This exercise will activate your core during workouts. Support yourself on either your hands or forearms. Start by holding the plank for 30 seconds, then increase by 30 seconds as you become stronger. You can even make it harder by raising the opposite arm and leg out straight in front or behind you.

Ball Push-Away

Get into a plank position with your feet spread and your forearms resting on a gym ball. Push the ball away with your forearms, then pull it back it, while maintaining the plank position. Start with 3 sets of 8, then increase the reps as you gain strength.

Leg Raises

Lay on your back with your legs straight and your hands by your side. Lift your legs up in the air while keeping them straight, then lower them down. Keep your core tight and your leg motions controlled. Do 3 sets of 8.

Dead Bug

Lie on your back with your arms extended straight up toward the ceiling and your legs raised with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Lower your right arm and left leg at the same time until they are hovering about 1-inch off the floor, then return to the starting position. Then do the same with the opposite limbs. Do 3 sets of 6, where one set is one on each side.

Make these core exercises a core part of every workout to maintain your strength and stay injury-free.

About the Author:

Madeline Hric is a graduate dietetic student and intern at the University of Pittsburgh working to become a registered dietitian. Her passion for Olympic weightlifting and nutrition inspired her to pursue a career in sports dietetics. She has an undergraduate degree in exercise science and hopes to combine her degrees to educate athletes on the importance of exercise, and how different types of exercise impacts individual nutrition needs.