Fitness Articles

Concentrate On Your Core

Exercise Your Body from the Inside-Out

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Whenever you walk or run, your core muscles are active, keeping you upright, balancing your body as your weight shifts, and absorbing the impact as your feet hit the ground. Your body’s core forms the foundation of all your movement. If your core is weak, you are susceptible to poor posture and injury. Lower back pain is also more likely to occur.

Your core muscles lie deep within your torso and pelvis. They are layered, overlapping and connected to each other.

Unlike weight lifting, a core-strengthening program exercises your whole system at once. You also don’t need any equipment. The strength you use in holding a position, as well as the gravitational pull of your own weight, work out the core muscles. You’ll be surprised at how great an effect a simple routine can have on your daily living activities.

The Core Benefits
The major core muscle is called the transversus abdominis. It is deep in your abdomen and circles your torso. To feel it contract, pull your belly button toward your spine. Hold the contraction for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat several times. You can do this exercise anytime, anywhere.

Breathing is important while you do core exercises. Practice breathing deeply from your diaphragm before starting core exercises. Sit or stand with your back straight and shoulders relaxed. Exhale through your mouth for 6 seconds, expelling as much air from your lungs as you can. Then inhale for 6 counts, feeling your belly and chest expand as your lungs fill with air. Repeat 3 times, then breathe at a more normal pace throughout
your exercises.

The following core exercises are simple enough to do on your own. To be safe, you should always check with your doctor before trying any new exercises.

Leg Press
Lie on the floor with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor. Raise your right leg off the floor with the knee still bent until your leg forms a 90-degree angle. Rest your right hand on the kneecap. Push against your knee with your right hand while pulling your knee toward your hand with your abdominal muscles. Hold for 3-4 deep breaths. Repeat with the left leg and hand.

Abdominal Crunch
Lie on your back and place your feet on the wall, so that your knees form a 90-degree angle. Cross your arms on your chest. Keep your gaze fixed forward. Using your abdominal muscles—not your neck—lift your chest as far as you can off the floor, even if it is only an inch or two. Hold for 2-3 seconds if you can, then release. Repeat 8 times. Remember to breathe deeply throughout this exercise.

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About The Author

The American Institute for Cancer Research The American Institute for Cancer Research
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is a charity that has contributed more than $70 million for research on diet and cancer. AICR educates Americans how to make dietary changes to lower their cancer risk.

Member Comments

  • Never thought about my core like that. Great article. - 7/14/2013 1:57:28 PM
  • Just what I needed! I teach 8 hours straight and never sit down. I do feel it in my lower back.... Thanks! - 9/13/2011 8:13:10 PM
  • This article is a great starter! I will be delving into this topic! - 9/13/2011 12:08:47 PM
  • I would have enjoyed even more of this article ! More on this subject please ! Thanks. - 9/13/2011 11:31:57 AM
  • i agree that the exercise bike is the best core strengthening workout for me.Everyday i can feel my back muscles working correctly as i walk.Being a top-heavy lady this is better than jogging for me, - 9/14/2010 10:46:11 PM
  • CATHYROD
    DahnYoga focuses their exercise on the core and we do alot of abdominal tapping. This has made my core very strong and it really works. check out their website. dahnyoga.com - 9/13/2010 10:43:43 AM
  • I have been doing at least 3 core workouts a week for many months and these exercises have strenghened my back as well. I've had some lower back issues for years and my pain is gone. I try to workout my abs every day. Using a stability ball is different than just doing crunches. You have to really be aware of balancing your body so you don't fall off the silly thing. - 9/13/2010 10:15:20 AM
  • Probably the best SINGLE core strength exercise is the "bicycle." It works the frontal abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus) and the obliques, plus the transverse adominals. I highly recommend core strength exercises -- 30 minutes at least twice a week. They have made a BIG difference in my running, and help greatly in backpacking and just about every other activity as well. - 9/13/2010 9:11:22 AM
  • MANPA764
    I had one of my stomach muscles used to reconstruck a breast due to cancer and really
    have not been able to tighten my abs since. Will these core exercises really benefit me? Since that surgery I cannot get certain clothes I used to wear to fit around my waist. - 9/13/2010 7:30:34 AM
  • One great exercise that wasn't mentioned in this article is the plank. It's on the exercise demos, though, so you can look it up and see how it's done. It is great for really working deep stabilizing muscles and creating a flat stomach look. - 9/13/2009 10:02:12 PM
  • Deep water exercise with the body held in a vertical position while movement of arms and legs act as a destabilizing force is very powerful and well-balanced core exercise. Plus it's fun, not sweaty, and you are scarcely aware of how hard and constantly you are working! - 9/13/2009 1:16:04 PM
  • What a timely email article! I've been struggling with what to do with this area for a few weeks now. I had surgery late last fall and it required a Herman Munster incision from one side of my abdomen to the other. I used to be able to do crunches without any difficutly and now I'm like a beetle on my back with legs and arms flailing!

    I started a running program and am enjoying it but found I was struggling with the pain in my core region after the run and all the next day. I feel the lack of strength in this area has been stopping me from making greater progress with the running. If I can get this area built back up, anything is possible!

    So I'm off to get working on that transversus abdominis! - 9/13/2009 1:07:45 PM
  • Tai Chi and Chi Gung are without a doubt the best Core Exercise one can do. When done correctly they do everything that was spoken of in this article. Gently exercise the core muscles, as well as every other muscle group. All Tai Chi movements begin at the waist and hips. The ancients who developed Tai Chi said,"The waist is the commander of the movement." Proper abdominal breating is an, perhaps the, essential element of Tai Chi and Chi Gung. - 9/13/2008 8:02:50 PM
  • good article. I never really thought abt the core muscles that way. - 9/13/2008 5:42:04 PM
  • KUZINKEITH
    A good article on some simple exercises for someone (like me) who's just beginning to get serious about daily movement. THANKS - 9/13/2008 9:32:16 AM
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