Lately, the phrase “core strength” has become a buzzword with several people talking about its importance. However, if you’re not a gym rat, it might be difficult to understand what the term actually means. Does working your core tone your abs and make you lean? Or does it strengthen your spine and help you maintain balance? While this might sound a little far-fetched, it’s actually true – your core does all the above-mentioned things. Consisting of the muscles of your body that lie between your shoulder girdle and your legs (including your abdominal muscles), your core is essential to all body movement.
If your core isn’t healthy, you could fall prey to issues like back pain, improper balance, and even develop bad posture! But here’s the good news – you can work your core muscles even if you don’t hit the gym. Here are some exercises you can perform from the comfort of your home without having to use expensive equipment.1 2
There are several pilate workouts, such as leg stretches, shoulder bridge, and leg kicks that you can do to strengthen your core.3 If you’re a beginner, opt for a simple exercise like the single leg stretch.
How to do it:
- Lie on your back, keeping your legs together.
- Inhale and slowly lift your legs and shins, so that they are parallel to the floor.
- Now, exhale and slightly lift your face and neck off the ground.
- Next, bend your right leg at your knee and slowly bring it forward toward your face.
- As you draw the right leg forward, grab it with your left hand.
- While drawing forward the right leg, stretch out the left leg and keep it straight.
- Now, immediately release the right leg and perform the movement with your left leg.
- Continue to perform pedalling motions with your legs and knees.
- Do the exercise for 1 minute every day to actively engage your core muscles.
L-lifts are an effective exercise to strengthen your core. To do it, you will need two tables that are of equal size.
How to do it:
- Keep the tables parallel to each other
- Stand in between them and keep your hands on top of either table.
- Slowly inhale, as you push your body upwards into the air.
- As you raise yourself, stretch your legs ahead of you, so that they are parallel to the ground.
- Keep your chest out and point your toes upward.
- Remain in this position until you start to feel a stretch in your abdomen.
- You can also perform this exercise at a park that has parallel bars.
3. Plank Hip Dips
An advanced version of the planks, this exercise not only works your core but also helps you shed tummy fat.
How to do it:
- Do a regular plank with your shoulders placed directly above your elbows.
- Slowly engage your core as you drop your hip onto one side to touch the floor.
- Return to the plank position
- Repeat the exercise, but this time swivel your hip to the opposite side.
- Begin with 20 plank dips and gradually move on to perform 3 rounds of 20 dips.
4. Mountain Climber
This exercise strengthens your core, increases endurance, and also doubles as a cardio workout.
How to do it:
- Get into a plank position with your abdomen raised off the ground.
- Keep your shoulder directly above your elbows
- Now draw your right leg forward by bending your knee and touch the ground with the toes of your right leg
- Your position now would resemble that of a person climbing a mountain.
- Repeat the action with your left leg.
- Continue “climbing the mountain” for a 3–4 minutes.
These are just some of the exercises you can perform to work your core. More advanced workouts include hanging leg raises, V-ups, and certain yoga poses like the arm-balance split (Eka Pada Koundinyasana ) and the Knee-to-Arm Chaturanga. However, before you perform these exercises, remember to warm up your body by doing a round of stretches. Also, don’t forget to wear a good pair of workout shoes, as exposed-feet could result in injury.
|↑1||Media, Adams. The Little Book of Self-Care: 200 Ways to Refresh, Restore, and Rejuvenate. Simon and Schuster, 2017.|
|↑2||The real-world benefits of strengthening your core. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.|
|↑3||Di Lorenzo, C. E. “Pilates: what is it? Should it be used in rehabilitation? Sports Health 3, 352e361.” (2011).|