Most people know that regular exercise is important for maintaining a healthy body and mind. However, many focus solely on cardiovascular activity or working specific muscle groups and neglect their core muscles. Your core is the foundational support system for your entire body. And engaging your core muscles is an essential part of performing many exercises correctly. Not only does it help prevent injury, but core strength provides vast benefits for your body in general. If you’re unsure what “core strength” is or how to engage your core during a workout, you’re in the right place.
What is Core Strength?
So, you know having a strong core is important, but what is the meaning of core strength, really? When I talk about “core strength,” I’m referring to strengthening the muscles of your core, including your abdominal and back muscles that attach to your spine and pelvis. Just like you can strengthen your arms to help you carry more and your legs to help you run faster, you can strengthen your core and experience many benefits.
What is Core Strength Good For?
Your core muscles work together to stabilize your body and provide support for the spine. Strong core muscles are essential for good posture and can help minimize back pain. They also play an important role in exercises like running, jumping, and lifting weights. You can improve your balance, coordination, and stamina by strengthening your core muscles. In addition, strong core muscles can help you maintain good form during exercises and prevent injuries.
How to Engage Your Core in 4 Steps
Understanding what core strength is is one thing, but you must know how to engage your core during exercise to experience the benefits of improved posture and reduced risk of injury. While you might not yet know how to engage your core, your body does! Your body naturally activates your core muscles before you laugh or cough. Try it–make yourself cough or laugh and focus on what your body and core muscles do during the movement. Another way is to imagine someone is going to punch you in the stomach. While it sounds silly, your body will prepare for the blow by naturally engaging your core muscles.
Now that you know what it feels like when these muscles are engaged, here is how to engage your core in four steps to activate those muscles during exercise intentionally.
- Start by finding your center of gravity. This is usually around your belly button. Once you’ve found it, focus on keeping that area stable as you move.
- Draw your belly button toward your spine and hold it there throughout the exercise. This will help to engage your deep abdominal muscles.
- Imagine that you are trying to bring your ribs and hips closer together. This will help to engage the muscles around your midsection.
- Focus on smooth, controlled movements. Breathe deeply and evenly as you exercise. This will help you maintain proper form and keep your muscles oxygenated.
The most important thing to remember when learning how to engage your core is that it is not sucking in your stomach and/or holding your breath. When you engage your core muscles, you should be able to breathe and function normally.
How to Build Your Core Strength Quickly and Effectively
Now that you know what core strength is and how to engage your core during exercise, let’s talk about how you can build your core strength. The stronger your core, the easier it is to lift weights and perform exercises with the proper form. Core strength is also essential for avoiding injury and can make everyday tasks like picking up your kids or climbing up and down stairs easier. As a bonus, strengthening your core muscles can also help you get a strong and toned stomach.
The best way to exercise your core is to do ab workouts that engage the essential muscles. Five of my favorite core exercises are the Runner’s Crunch, Mountain Climbers with Knee Crosses, Single-Leg Crunch to Toe Touch, Reverse Sit-up to Leg Lower, and Side Plank Dips. You can learn how to do each of those exercises with a video example in this blog post!
Another great way to build your core strength quickly is to practice yoga and Pilates. These forms of exercise focus on breathwork and gentle movements, which can help to lengthen and tone the muscles. They provide an excellent environment to practice engaging your core in a controlled environment. In addition, they can also help improve flexibility and reduce stress, so it’s a win-win!
Learn How to Engage Your Core to Enhance Your Workouts with the ALFitCrew App
If you’re interested in strengthening your core and enhancing your workouts, look no further than the ALFitCrew fitness app. I am passionate about helping women feel confident and strong with at-home workouts you can do from anywhere. I come with 10+ years of experience and understand the foundational elements of a workout that works. It starts by learning the essentials of fitness, including how to engage your core and perform exercises properly. Not only will this prevent injury, but you’ll also see better results and finally achieve your fitness goals. So, whether you’re a beginner looking for 1:1 support for your fitness journey or a gym buff looking for new workouts and accountability, I’m here for you! You can learn how to work with me via the ALFitCrew app and start your free trial today!