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Posted on 06-20-2012

Morning everyone!  This article may be a little too late for summers here in Redding but it's NEVER too late when done in the AC! The weather is hot and the lakes are ready for swimming. But is your body ready for a swimsuit? Many people fret over their mid-section when summer comes around.

Strengthening your core muscles shouldn’t be a focus only during the summer months, but all year round.  I'd like to discusses the importance of core muscles and the best exercises for toning.

Outer Versus Inner Core
The core muscles most people are aware of are the outer muscles, or the “pretty” muscles that you can actually see once defined. While they are important, many people forget that your deep, inner core muscles are what actually support and stabilize your body and spine (which help your adjustments).

Here are the main outer core muscles in your body:

  1. Rectus Abdominis – Better known as the “6-pack” muscles. This muscle allows flexibility of the spinal column and helps to stabilize your spine.
  2. External Oblique – This pair of muscles is located on each side of the rectus abdominis and helps with the rotation of your torso.

Here are the main inner core muscles that you are not able to see, but are equally as important for stabilization:

  1. Internal Oblique – This muscle is right underneath the external oblique and aids in rotation.
  2. Transverse Abdominis – This muscle is layered below the internal obliques. It acts as a blanket that wraps around your core. It helps to compress the rib cage lining and envelopes the internal organs. Also the transverse abdominis helps to stabilize the spinal cord. When you practice a “draw-in” move like in yoga or other ab workouts, you are drawing your belly button to your spine. This activates the transverse abdominis.
  3. Pelvic Floor Muscles – These muscles, which lay underneath the pelvis, are often overlooked and are crucial in stabilization of your core and supporting your spine. They stabilize your hip complex which helps with stability in locomotion and movement.

Exercises for the Core
Try these four exercises which capture each part of your core—the front, side, back and lower abs. Do 15-20 reps each for two to three sets.

  1. Correct Crunch (Front) – Lay on your back, lift your legs off the ground to form a 90 degree angle with your knees and legs. Then lift your upper body about two inches off the ground for the crunch. Breathe out when you lift up and breathe in when you go back down. If you have neck problems, place your hands on the back of your neck for support, but remember to not pull on your head.
  2. Side Plank (Side) – Lay on your side and lift your body off the ground, balancing on one forearm and one foot. Contract your abs for the workout, and remember to breathe. For an added workout, lift your hips up and back down remaining lifted. Make sure you maintain good posture and your elbow is supported directly beneath your shoulder.
  3. Cobra (Back) – Lay on your stomach and place your hands at your side with your palms down. Squeeze your glutes and raise your chest about two inches off the ground. To engage the exercise, rotate your thumbs up and out and lift your head neutrally. For an advanced version, start on your stomach with your arms bent in 90 degree angles by your head. When you lift up, stretch your arms out in front of your head.
  4. Reverse Crunch (Lower Abs) – Grab a small stability ball and grip it between your thighs while laying on your back. Make sure your palms are facing up. Squeeze the stability ball between your thighs to activate the lower abs. Roll your knees toward your chest with the ball for the exercise.

Use these exercises everyday as a warm-up before your workout routine or an additional supplement to your routine.

Have a blessed day!

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