Welcome to my weekly series, Training Tip Tuesday. Each week I will focus on a different aspect of training – strength, cardio, flexibility, balance, etc.
Today’s Training Tip
Learn how to engage the core during exercise and everyday life by applying simple changes to your exercise routine and day-to-day activities.
A Quick Review of the Core
While expounding on last week’s tip, engage your core, I touched on the core’s main function to protect and assist the spine while stabilizing the upper and lower body. I also shared simple tips and key phrases I use to remind clients to engage their core, including…
- • Stand or sit tall
- • Pull your belly button to your spine
- • Hug your spine with your muscles
- • Don’t forget to breath
Putting Today’s Tip into Practice
Simple changes to your form will help you bring the core into almost any exercise. It’s easy to become so focused on the muscle group you’re working that you forget that a few simple changes can bring additional muscle groups – those of the core – into play.
Engaging the Core When Working Out
Try these simple changes and see if you can feel the difference…
- • Use a Swiss ball rather than a traditional bench whenever doing exercises requiring you to be in the supine position – once rolled out on the ball, contract the glutes and core muscles to keep your body in the correct position prior to doing your exercise as you would on a bench
- • Stand on a BOSU or an unstable pad when doing standing exercises – the unstableness of your base will require you to engage your core muscles to stay in position
- • Stand or sit on the floor rather than sitting on a gym chair when rowing or pressing – not having a back to lean against will encourage you to engage your core muscles for support rather than relying on the chair back
- • Avoid leaning against chest rests or machine backs when using exercise machines, opting instead to engage the core by sitting up straight while doing the exercise
- • Consider adding Pilates, tai chi, and yoga – all great types of exercise that strengthen the core – to your exercise routine.
- • Perform core specific exercises such as planks, bridges, birddogs, panther shoulder taps, etc.
Supine bridge with variations…
Panther shoulder taps…
- • When running, hiking, and cycling check your form. If you catch yourself slouching, especially as you tire into a longer cardio workout, pick yourself up out of your slump, bring your chest up and shoulders back, and pull your belly button to your spine.
Engaging the Core During Everyday Life
Engaging the core is not limited to only when working out. Simples adaptations to everyday life can help build a stronger core.
- • Use a Swiss ball as an office chair
- • Do 10-20 second isometric contractions (contractions without motion) of the core muscles throughout the day by hugging your core muscles to your spine
- • Randomly remember to engage your core during day-to-day activities such as folding laundry, washing dishes, walking to the mailbox, etc.
How Often Do I Work My Core?
Core specific exercises can be done every day, but I prefer to treat the core as other muscle groups and allow 48 hours of rest and recovery between workouts so I hit them three days a week. Engaging the core during daily activities is entirely different and I do that whenever I think of it or it feels right.
- • Do you engage your core naturally or do you need to remind yourself?
- • Do you include any of the above modifications to your workout? ~ Yes and on a regular basis
- • What other training tips would you like for me to cover?