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?
Thanks for the reminder. I do need it.
I do keep checking on my form when I run. Otherwise I admit I’m a slacker.
It’s a reminder we can all use, and you’re welcome!
I said it on your last training tip post but I can’t thank you enough for this series! And would you believe, I actually DO have a Swiss Ball that I could use as an office chair!
I’m so glad you’re enjoying the series. My advice on using the Swiss ball as an office chair is to very gradually add the amount of time you sit on it. Ease into it just like you’d gradually add miles to your marathon training weekly long runs.
I just had a convo with my husband about this.
His core is awful and it’s really affecting his comfort as he gets older. Now that he’s having some health issues, he’s seeing how important it is to keep up with it.
I hope your husband can find some relief from his discomfort. Remind him that just a little bit of core activation daily can go a long way.
When I do my calf raises on my wobbly board, I notice how much easier it is to stay in balance if I tighten my core.
Now, how to implement it more in daily life? I think I’ll need to go the Post-it sticker route! 🙂
If you have a Fitbit or Apple watch that reminds you to get up and move around every hour, you could use that as a reminder to also do a few core activation moves.
Such a great reminder to really work on engaging my core daily, not just when working out. Thanks for all the great tips!
You’re welcome, Kim!
I have gotten much better at engaging my core but I can definitely use reminders! It makes such a difference while doing core work to engage properly
Yes, it’s so easy to get sloppy if we don’t keep reminding ourselves to engage.
Thanks for these excellent tips, Deb! I engage my core a lot more than I used to because some of my gym exercises require it, and in more everyday activities because I’ve had some lower back pain which has made me very aware of my core muscles and to keep a healthy posture.
Your back will thank you for strengthening your core!
Oh man, I am slacking here. I have a Bosu ball and need to take it out of storage. I’d forgotten about it.
Oh, if you’ve got one you should definitely be using it. 😀
These are great tips and reminders. A thing I do, sometimes, is contracting and engaging my abs while at a traffic light. I either hold it for the duration of the light, or see how many contractions I can do while waiting…both of which force me to sit more upright.
That’s a great idea!
I was so excited to have a ball at the hotel gym for glute bridges.
My boss used one for her desk chair for years but it finally has seen better days and office vibe means it’s no longer particularly viable as one. I should look into one for hime, thanks for reminder.
No problem, happy to remind! 😉