1. Build a Foundation: Strengthening your internal core muscles is keyto creating a functionally efficient body; meaning improved posture, strength, control, power, and injury reduction. The first step to achieve this is through proper breathing technique. Next time you do a normal crunch or sit-up, look at your stomach. Does it puff out when you curl up, or pull in? If it’s puffing out you are only straightening the outer core muscle (the rectus abdominis). What’s essential is strengthening your internal core muscles. This includes the transverse abdominis which sits directly under the rectus. To achieve this, inhale through your nose allowing your rib cage to expand. As you exhale, shoot the air out of your mouth and contract your bellybutton back to your spine. If you don’t feel this, it’s most likely because your internal core muscles are weak. Keep concentrating on this breath, contracting the belly button back to the spine, and start to feel your pelvis floor muscles engage. Eventually, your breathing patterns will subconsciously change and you will find yourself engaging your abs, not only while doing core exercises, but while sitting in a chair, walking, balancing, and circuit training. It will drastically improve your exercise technique, everyday activities, and the look of your mid-section.
2. Strengthen your Tree Trunk: Many people think that the core simply means the abs. The core actually includes many of the muscles that make up your entire torso. These include the front abdominal region, obliques, back, pelvis, and shoulder stabilizers. When you have a strong, connected core, your physically capabilities grow exponentially. When your core muscles work together, it does not take as much effort to do a push up, squat, lunge or jump. On top of working on your breathing technique, do front plank lifts, side plank lifts, bridges, and back extensions.These utilize all the core muscles together in different planes, which will make your body more functionally efficient.
3. Improve Flexibility: It’s very important to stretch in order to counter balance muscle contraction, lengthen muscles, lubricate joints, and prevent injury. The main areas to stretch are calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, lat muscles, and chest. Make sure to hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds so that muscles can relax and tissue can repair. For examples of stretching click here
4. Find your Balance: Balance is key to creating a mind muscle connection, that will allow you to improve your core strength, stability, and overall functional ability. Try standing on your right leg and slowly extending your left leg out in front of you 5 times without touching the ground. If you can do this, raise it out to the side, and then back behind you. As you balance, focus on pulling your belly button back to your spine, and engaging your core muscles. If this is easy, practice T stands, and one leg squats.
5. Create Stability Endurance Circuits: After completing your core and balance exercises, create a circuit that will improve your stability and work your cardiorespiratory system. Pick 6 to 8 different exercises and complete them back to back with no more than 30 seconds rest between each exercise. Complete 15-20 reps per exercise, and perform them at a slow tempo.