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What's Core Strength and How Do You Get It

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Core strength has been a buzz phrase for several years, and it’s not a fad. Having a strong core is essential for so many reasons. Building your core will allow you to have effective core performance in pursuit of fitness.

First, you might ask, what is your core comprised of? I’m glad you asked! The core is the region of the hips, the spine and where your center of gravity is located. The muscles in this region help stabilize your spine when you are moving your body. In “Hidden Secrets to Core Performance,” Pete Holman cites a physical therapist’s definition: “If you cut off the arms and legs, what’s left is the core!”

We want to have a strong core to protect these regions of our torso, to be functionally fit (activities of daily living), as well as being ready to engage in the fitness activities you choose. With a strong core, you will be a better athlete, you’ll have less chance of injury, and you’ll be able to create more balance and stability in the years to come. In addition, a strong core will improve your posture (just like your momma wanted), increase your agility and rotary power in sports such as baseball and golf, and protect your internal organs and spine.

Today, I’ll give you the good and the bad exercises you could perform for core performance.

First, the not-so-good exercises:

  • The Traditional Situp: This move puts unnecessary stress on your spine.
  • The Superman: This move hyperextends your spine and predisposes you to spinal compression.
  • The Russian Twist: Use these with caution; overdoing these can cause disc damage over time. Doing these with slow, careful movements will allow you to work the obliques occasionally. Start off with your knees bent and your back at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Make sure your back is straight and hold your arms out in front of you. Twist your torso to the right and then to the left. Make this exercise more challenging by holding a medicine ball or kettle bell, and lifting your feet off of the ground.

The best exercises to do before you get into more complete core conditioning are:

  • Modified curl up: (replaces the traditional sit-up) This is a simple move that is harder than you think. With both hands under the back, lift the head and shoulders towards the ceiling until the shoulder blades come off the floor.
  • Side plank: A great move that strengthens your obliques. Use a split stance to lift hips off ground. Lie on your side with your forearm flat on the floor, bottom elbow lined up directly under your shoulder and both legs extended out in a long line. Feet can be either staggered for more stability or stacked for more of a challenge. Engage your core and lift your hips off the floor, forming a straight line from your head to your feet.
  • Bird dog: This one helps encourage a stable core while moving your arms and legs in a tabletop position. Start on the ground with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips, while keeping your head, neck and back straight. Raise your right arm and reach it forward until it is in line with your torso. As you bring your arm forward, kick your left leg backward until it’s a straight in line with your torso; hold for one second.

Core is more than a buzzword, and it’s also more than just your abs!

Want more core training? Want to try out these exercises with me? Come in for a free Fitness Assessment, which includes an In-Body Composition Testing and MAPS test by TRX to assess your Mobility, Activation, Posture and Symmetry.

Call Ochsner Fitness Center at (504) 733-1600

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The Benefits of Pilates

Pilates “increases the strength of stabilizer muscles, strengths your core like no other exercise, prevents future injuries and helps you become more efficient with your body,” Ochsner Fitness Center Pilates instructor Donna Reuter said.