Understanding Core Strength and What to do About It
“Core Strength”… You’ve seen these words on billboards advertising gym memberships, on the latest health-trend manifestos, and on the front page of your fitness magazine. You’ve even heard your close friends and family members chatting about the value of core strength. And yet, you’re not really sure what it is, why it’s important, or why it should even matter to you. The good news is, this post is about to enlighten you. We’re going to give you the ins-and-outs of core strength, its necessity, and what it really means for your health.
For most of us, the idea of core strength is firmly rooted in an image of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger – 6-packs and plenty of muscle. Sure, this is some of what it means to have good core strength, but thankfully, having a strong core doesn’t mean we have to become body builders. Core strength is about a lot more than washboard abs – it’s about strong muscles in your torso, back, and upper legs, that is, muscles that are robust enough to support and maintain a healthy spine and bone structure. So, while it’s an added bonus to develop a great midriff, having strong core muscles contributes to your overall health – not just appearance – in a myriad of ways.
Think about this for a second: have you ever had back pain or suffered from pelvic pain? This type of discomfort may well have to do with weakness in your core muscles. Because these muscles ensure the stability and mobility of the joints and spinal structure, weakness or stiffness may disrupt optimal body function, thereby leading to pain which can sometimes be chronic. Not only that, but strong core muscles actually prevent injury. Why? Because they strengthen and support the skeletal structure, thereby reducing the risk of damage. By contrast, weak core muscles may have a large impact on posture, pelvic health, possible injury, athletic ability, energy, and endurance, not to mention mobility and flexibility.
It’s clear, then, that core strength is integral to health, but as with most things in life, it’s important to understand the journey is just as important as the result. Some people jump straight into a vigorous, damaging core-strength routine, never consulting a professional and just assuming that “harder and faster” means “better”. Sadly, most of these people do more harm than good, and far from strengthening their core muscles, their overambitious routines actually cause overcompensation, misalignment, stress, and ultimately, pain. It is absolutely essential that core strength training be undertaken with a solid understanding of your body, your particular set of needs, and your personal parameters.
All in all, though, having strong core muscles is both essential in the prevention of injury and in the elimination of various forms of pain. That having been said, we understand that getting into a habit of developing strong core muscles in, perhaps, a little easier said than done. Some people don’t have time for hours in the gym, and others might be daunted by the idea of sit-ups or crunches. Don’t worry – there are safe, effective, and easy ways of increasing your core strength and alleviating your pain, right now. Take a look:
Core Strength Exercises
Remember, start moderately and work your way up to more intense routines. Muscles take time to strengthen, so give them the space they need to build in a strong and lasting manner – in other words, avoid injuries by practicing patience.
- Plank: Keep your body stiff as you lift yourself up through your arms, almost as though you’re doing a push-up. Hold that position for a set period of time. Increase the number of sets gradually.
- Flutter Kicks: Lying down, lift your feet off of the ground. Make sure your heels do not touch the mat. Lift your legs up slowly, only to let them go back down again. Do not touch the floor. Alternate the legs to perform a “kick”. Increase the number of sets gradually.
- Bridge: Lay flat on your back and place your arms by your side. Lift your legs up at the knees, but be sure to keep your feet on the ground. Now, lift up your pelvic area and form a straight line between your knees and shoulders. Hold. Increase the number of sets gradually.
- Side Plank: This is a variation on the “plank” exercise. Instead of lifting up on both your arms, lift up to one side of your body using only one arm; place the other arm on your hips as you do so. Hold. Increase the number of sets gradually.
- Push-Ups: This is just like the “plank” form, only here you do not hold the position. Instead, you lift and drop your body consecutively over a period of time. Increase the number of sets gradually.
- Yoga and Pilates: These are great forms of exercise that target your core, and they’re wonderful ways to increase both your strength and flexibility in this area. Why not joint a class?
Physical therapy is by far the best, most effective, safest, and fastest way of increasing your core strength and eradicating pain. A hands-on, professional therapist will not only alleviate your pain by treating the root cause of the problem, but he/she will ensure that you maintain a pain-free life by giving you the tools to do so. In other words, physical therapy offers you tailor-made exercises designed to eradicate your pain, strengthen your core, and help you enjoy and maintain the life you deserve. Physical therapy isn’t a temporary solution, rather, it is a permanent and safe answer to your pain: by giving you professional, effective, customized, life-changing care, physical therapy is the best, most effective way to increase core strength and help you live the life you were meant to.
Don’t underestimate the value of core strength both in the eradication of pain and in the maintenance of a pain-free life. Call us today for more information about how we can help you – we look forward to hearing from you.