With most of us doing the majority of our fitness at home this year, the sound of an online fitness trainer shouting ‘ENGAGE YOUR CORE’ at you from a YouTube video is undoubtedly familiar. But what is so core about your ‘core’?
Poor posture is often caused by habitual activity. Are you working from home sitting for prolonged periods of time? Or do you spend a lot of time behind the wheel of a car? Maybe you’re a hairdresser or dentist and spend most of the day hunched over? Or perhaps a parent spending all day chasing after little ones? Without thinking, much of your daily activity takes a toll on your posture.
One of the key ways of recognising poor posture is via weak abdominal muscles. Our core muscles play a crucial role in our everyday movement and activity. We all use and activate our core all the time and this has a direct impact on posture.
Are you standing right now? Or sitting? Or walking? Did you just lift an object? Are you breathing? Then you are using your core! Your core strength and abdominal muscles ultimately determine your balance and stability.
Poor posture can lead to simultaneous tight and weak muscles. This may sound odd, but without a balanced and strong core other parts of your body, such as the lower back, have to compensate when it comes to movement and agility.
But how do these core exercises actually help posture? These exercises will strengthen the surrounding muscles of the spine and pelvis. If you think about it, your abs sit directly in front of your spine. Once these muscles are strengthened it helps alleviate other muscles from the direct impact of supporting the spine. The core takes one for the team! Much of the pain associated with poor posture is lower back pain. Strengthening the core muscles allows the spine to rely less on the back, and ultimately causes less pain.
A stronger core allows everyday movement to cause less tension throughout the body. The tightness and weakness that is a result of poor posture can be rectified by strengthening and conditioning the core. Your core really is the core of the body; it is involved in all movement.
Here are some quick exercises to improve your core strength:
It will come as no surprise that the Plank is included in these tips and tricks. Yes, this is the same Plank your online fitness trainer has got you doing but it really is great for core strength and improving posture.
This exercise strengthens your abdominal muscles as well as your back and glutes.
- To start, lie down facing forward on the floor.
- Prop yourself onto your forearms. Your forearms should be parallel to one another.
- Ensure your elbows are underneath your shoulders
- Tuck your toes under
- Lift your knees up off the floor. Squeeze your quads, glutes and core.
- Press firmly against the ground with your forearms.
- Ensure to keep your buttocks in line with your back. Do not stick your buttocks in the air.
- Breath in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Hold for 20 seconds at first. Increase this if you can.
- Repeat 3 times.
Do not worry if you can only hold your plank for 15 seconds. The more you do the exercise the easier it will become.
Did you know that the world record for the longest plank held by a male is George Hood from Chicago? He held the plank for 8:15:15! The longest plank for a female is held by Dana Glowacka from Montreal who managed to hold the position for 4:19:55. So get planking!
2. THE KNEELING HINGE
This move may feel a bit Matrix-like but it’s great for strengthening and engaging the core.
- In the kneeling position ensure your legs are hip-width apart
- If you need to add support under your knees (yoga mat or folded towel) do so
- Ensure toes are pointed behind you.
- Extend your arms in front of the chest with palms facing down.
- Engage your core.
- Maintain a straight line from your knees up to the top of your head.
- Hinge back with the pelvis as far as possible.
- Return to the starting position.
- Try and repeat this 10 times
This exercise is another staple in the fitness world, but did you know it’s great for your core and posture? It not only works your core but strengthens your obliques and glutes.
- Kneel down with your knees hip width apart.
- Put your hands on the ground shoulder-width apart.
- Engage your core/
- To start with, life one hand and the opposite knee a couple of inches off the ground while staying balanced on the other hand and knee.
- Keep your weight centred.
- When you feel balanced and steady – let’s do the full range of motion!
- Point your left arm out straight in front of you. Extend the right leg out behind you.
- This should form a straight line all the way from your hand to your foot.
- Keep your hips square to the ground.
- Hold it. Then place the hand and knee back down.
- Repeat on the opposite side. Make sure you keep your core engaged throughout.
Try doing these 3 exercises in a circuit each day!
Here is an example of a circuit:
- 20 seconds plank
- 10 birddogs with left arm forward right leg back
- 5 kneeling hinges
- 30 second rest
- 20 second plank
- 5 birddogs with right arm forward left leg back
- 5 kneeling hinges
Just 5 minutes a day can make all the difference for your posture and overall health. Try this for 5 consecutive days and watch your core strengthen.
Let us know how you get on with our core exercises! We would love to hear from you.
If you’re feeling a bit tired after your core session, why not unwind with a 15 minute PostureKey session? Its the perfect tool to improve your posture and allow your body to relax.
If you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort while doing these exercises, stop what you’re doing, and ask your practitioner to demonstrate these moves with the correct form.