Strengthening Your Body Core

I was complaining recently to my daughter (the Pilates instructor) that “my weak neck was hurting again”. She replied that I did not as I claimed “have a weak neck” but was instead suffering from weak abdominal muscles!  My poor neck was trying to compensate for what my abs couldn’t do.
Week abdominals muscles can cause extra strain not only to your neck but also your back. Often an aching back stems from the same scenario. Your abdominal muscles are weak and your poor back is trying to compensate.
Weak abdominal and core muscles can also lead to serious falls. We all make a mis-step or trip from time to time. But if your core muscles are strong and toned you will correct yourself and regain your balance. Many of the serious fall injuries people suffer are due to weak core muscles. People lose their balance and not having the strength to make a correction they tumble all the way to the hard floor and incur injury.
Yanhee hospital shares the following benefits to strengthening your core muscles (the obliques, abdominals, lower back, and the glutes.)
Stabilize the Lower BackCore exercises make the lower back stronger and healthier. With a stronger back, you will be less prone to lower back pain that is usually a result of carrying too much weight, or pressure on the lower back. By enhancing the body’s weight-bearing capabilities, back muscles and ligaments will not easily be damaged by heavy weight. Moreover, a stronger core will allow for normal spinal functions.
Improve Balance and CoordinationAs the back and abdominal area becomes stronger, the body also experiences an improvement in balance and coordination. Doing core exercises stimulates a particular area in the brain called the cerebellum that links to body parts for coordination, spatial awareness, and balance. These exercises are not simply a workout for the body, but also for the brain.
Enhance Flexibility- While most people find it hard to believe that working out abdominal muscles can improve flexibility, core exercises can certainly do wonders for ligaments and muscles by stabilizing the lower back. When the back is stabilized, stress and tension are removed, thus allowing for greater range of motion, which in turn results in enhanced flexibility.
Promote Better BreathingAnother benefit of core exercises is improved lung capacity. Core muscles are connected to the diaphragm so working out these muscle groups will enhance one’s ability to inhale and exhale fully. If the body is able to take in more oxygen, the heart is able to pump more blood, so there will be a significant improvement in the overall performance of the body.
Strengthen the BodyIt is not only the abdominals and the lower back that core exercises can strengthen. They can also make the entire body stronger. Evidence to this is when you engage in physical activities or sports. After doing several core exercise workouts, you will find that your sports-playing capabilities will be much better. Whether it is surfing, running, skiing, or cycling, you will see tremendous improvement in how you play these sports.
Core exercises should definitely be a part of your exercise routine. Aside from being a good workout for your abdominal muscles, they also benefit your physical health in more ways than you can imagine. They improve flexibility, strengthen abs and the entire body, reduce lower back problems, and promote breathing and lung capacity. 

So you have guessed it. Our challenge for Week # 2 is to spend at least 10 minutes each day doing Core body exercises. You can claim 5 bonus points each day for a total of 6 days to earn 30 bonus points this week doing core exercise.  (And yes you can count this toward your daily requirement of 60 minutes of exercise). You can try some of those listed below or find your own with a google or youtube search. (If you are new to working out your core muscles search for “Beginning core exercises") I am hoping that this is a challenge you will add to those you continue throughout and beyond our 8 weeks together.

Here are some suggested exercises:

Move 1: Knee Fold Tuck
(A) Sit tall, hands on floor, knees bent, squeezing a playground ball between them. (B) Lift knees so shins are about parallel to the floor; extend arms. Pull knees toward shoulders, keeping upper body still. Bring knees back to starting position. Repeat 15 to 20 times.

Move 2: Climbing Rope
(A) Sit with legs extended, feet turned out in a V position, toes pointed. Contract core muscles and roll spine into a C-curve. (B) Lift arms and move them as if you were climbing a rope. Twist slightly with each reach. Do 20 reaches with each arm.

Move 3: Side Balance Crunch
(A) Begin with left knee and left hand on the floor, right arm straight up. Extend right leg so your body forms a straight line. (B) Pull right knee toward torso and right elbow toward knee. Straighten arm and leg. Repeat 10 times, then switch sides.

Move 4: Circle Plank
Start in a plank position with abs tight. (A) Pull right knee in and circle it clockwise, then (B) counterclockwise. Keep the rest of your body stationary. Repeat five times, then switch legs

Move 5: Sliding Pike
(A) Begin in a plank on an uncarpeted floor, hands under shoulders and a towel under feet. (B) With legs straight, raise hips and draw legs toward hands into a pike position—your feet should slide easily. Hold for one count, then return to start. Repeat 10 times.

Move 6: Oblique Reach
Sit with knees bent and feet on floor. (A) Straighten right leg. Roll spine into a C-curve. Place left hand behind head and extend right arm. (B) Twist body to the left, roll back a bit more (and hold for one count), then come up. Do five reps, then switch sides.

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