Why All Women Need a Stronger Core (and exactly how to get one)
Over the years I’ve had the great pleasure of working with hundreds and hundreds of women to help them get into a consistent workout routine, improve their health and fitness, feel better, and boost their confidence.
One of the key foundational areas of our program that has lead to such great success with our Women’s Group Members, is developing core strength.
At Dynamic, we focus our core training on the rectus abdominis (think 6-pack) and the lateral abs or obliques. These cover both the front and latera/side aspects of your core.
Core strength goes well beyond a good looking mid-section.
Our core plays so many roles in our lives and overall success with our fitness as I will get into below.
Reason #1: Workout Performance
Ready to take your workouts and your results to the next level?
It all starts with the strength your core and those core muscles that support your rib cage, shoulders, spine, and hips.
When we think about fitness, many of us think about the fundamental movements which produce the greatest returns on our results.
These are movements like squats, push-ups, lunges, planks, chin-ups, deadlifts, and burpees.
They allow you to use a great amount of resistance and all work through a large range of motion, helping you to burn calories, shred fat, and build strength.
If your core isn’t as strong as it needs to be, your performance will suffer with all of these movements.
A strong core locks your spine and posture in place and allows you to use your large muscle groups like your lats, chest, shoulders, glutes, and quads.
As soon as your core cannot handle the stress of the exercise, you will start to compensate and get less out of the movement.
Another great feature of improving your core strength is that it actually improves the range-of-motion at your hips and shoulders.
This means you will be able to get into better, stronger positions during your exercises. Also, larger ranges of motion during your exercises stress your muscles more, burning more calories and building more strength!
Simply put: If you want to improve your fitness and take that next step, strengthening your core is a must!
Reason #2: Injury Prevention
When new women join our program, we are sure to first talk about their injury history.
Most women come to us with a history of low-back pain.
We specifically design our program to combat this.
Something magical happens when we get our Women’s Group Members core’s stronger.
They start to move and feel so much better.
Most women come to us thinking their low-back is weak and that is why they’re having pain.
The truth in most cases is that their back has just been overloaded and is doing too much work because their abs and core aren’t strong enough.
Strengthening your core, especially your abs, will take pressure off your low back and actually improve your posture.
From a fitness standpoint as well - whether it’s running, weight training, cycling, or a combination, the stronger your core is, the less likely you are to get an injury.
The muscles of your core attach to your spine and hips.
Therefore the stronger those muscles are, the better they work to keep your spine in a safe position.
Think about picking up a heavy weight or bag off the floor.
When you pick the object up, your abs need to work to keep your low-back in a safe position.
If the object is too heavy your back rounds as you lift the object and potential injury can occur.
Reason #3: Improved Activities of Daily Life
Think of your core as the foundation of your house.
The stronger the foundation is, the stronger the overall house is.
This strength is going to make your daily activities easier.
Picking up your groceries, your children or grandchildren -- easier.
Going up and down the stairs -- easier.
Doing yard work or even the laundry -- easier.
Not only will it be easier because you're stronger, you'll feel so much better doing it!
Let's get into our favorite exercises to strengthen your core.
1| Front Plank
When it comes to ab training, the plank is number one on our list! It challenges your abs and obliques to work to stabilize both your spine and pelvis. This is also a great teaching tool for how to brace and how your posture should be while doing just about every other strength and cardio exercise. Getting good at planks will have a great impact on your posture, strength and performance.
- Start with forearms flat and fists right under your eyes
- Push yourself up into plank position
- Think about pushing your chest up away from the ground and keeping your spine long
- Keep glutes squeezed tight and abs braced
- Do not let hips sag down
- You should feel your glutes, core, and shoulders working
- Start with 2-3 sets of :15-:30 holds
New to the front plank?
Complete the same plank mentioned above from an elevated surface as shown below.
2| Side Plank
The side plank is our favorite drill for those tough to improve sides, also known as your obliques. They play a big role in your aesthetics, performance, core stability and posture. Because your obliques attach to both your rib cage and pelvis, keeping them strong with exercises like side planks is a great way to seriously improve strength and keep your low back healthy.
- Start on one side with your forearm directly under your shoulder
- Stack your feet and keep a straight line from your head to heels
- Push yourself up into side plank position
- Think "long spine" as you keep glutes squeezed tight and abs braced
- Do not let hips sag down or twist
- You should feel your inner oblique and shoulder working
- Start with 2-3 sets of :15-:30 holds
New to the side plank?
Complete the same side plank mentioned above just with your knees bent and feet tucked behind you.
3| Band Anti-Rotation Press
One of our favorite exercises for that tough-to-hit lateral abdominal is the anti-rotation press. By pressing the cable or band out in front, your obliques have to work hard to resist any side-bend or rotation.
- Start in athletic position with feet hip to shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent
- Have band hung on post at about hip height
- Grab band with inside hand and then take an overhand grip with the opposite hand
- Walk away from post to get a little tension on your band
- Press the band straight out without letting your body move or twist
- Exhale as you press the band away, tighten your abs, and pause
- Return to starting position by bringing elbows in
- Start with 2-3 sets of 6-10 rep/side
4| Seated Anti-Twist
You may have heard of Russian Twists where you have an object in your hands like a medicine ball and you twist side to side to work the abs.
Our no-twist exercise is similar but we want you to slow the movement down and not allow yourself to twist.
You will feel your abs big time!
- Start in seated position with hands in front of chest
- Keep feet elevated off ground if possible
- Slowly bring hands to your sides without letting your body move
- Keep abs braced tight throughout
- Start with 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps/side
5| Straight Leg Sit-Up
We like straight leg sit ups over knees-bent, traditional sit-ups because they focus more on your abs and less on your hip flexors.
Research also shows the straight leg position takes stress off your low back. Talk about a win-win!
- Start on back with legs straight, toes pointed up
- Have arms up
- Initiate by using abs to pull upper body up
- Reach through ceiling and finish with arms overhead
- Slowly lower yourself vertebrae by vertebrae
- Make these more challenging by adding weight overhead
- Make them easier by coming up half way
- Start with 2-3 sets of 6-10 reps
6| Hollow Hold
Think of these hollow holds as the reverse front plank. By having both your arms and legs extended out, your abs have to work extremely hard to keep your low-back flat.
- Lay on back with legs straight and arms overhead
- Keep low back pressed into floor throughout entire exercise
- Keeping head back, lift legs 6-10" off floor
- Work on deep exhales through pursed lips
- Hold for 2-3 sets of 5-8 breaths
New to the hollow hold?
Start by keeping your hands and feet closer together, shown below. Your hands and legs should only be stretched out as far as you can while still keeping back pressed into the floor.