February 21, 2020
What Is Core Strength & How To Improve It

What Is Core Strength & How To Improve It


– What is core strength? Well, it’s a buzz phrase
that’s used by many of us. Coaches, athletes,
trainers all refer to this. But what exactly are they meaning? Well, I’m going to peel back the layers and explain in just a moment, but you might be worrying
that you’ve got no core. But, if you’re able to
stand upright unsupported, then you’re okay, you’ve got
some muscles working at least. In order, though, to swim, bike, run, or do any other dynamic
movements efficiently you need to have all of your
core muscles working together. So today I’m going to be explaining how you can strengthen those core muscles and exactly what they are. So if you want to know more,
stick with us for this video. (techno music) Most of us will have a core that does more than purely support our
spine and our torso. But what is its relevance in sport? Well, having a strong coordinated core is going to allow you
to perfect and perform certain movements more
smoothly and more efficiently, as well as preventing
your from getting injured. So in that case, why
is so often overlooked? Well, until you get an injury
or a plateau in performance then an exercise that gives
very small tangible outcomes is often seen as unnecessary. The trend to doing core work, though, has consistently been growing as coaches and athletes
realize the importance of it. For example, a runner who has a weak core is going to be using more
of their supporting muscles every time their foot strikes, and therefore are going to fatigue quicker than an athlete
who’s more conditioned. You don’t need to know the exact detail of all the layers of the core, but having a bit of an
understanding I found helps. So the core is basically
made up of several layers that wrap around your torso, along with some other muscles
that actually attach into it. And the old school thought
was having a six pack set of muscles down the front meant that you had a really good core. Now I hate to break it to you that just if you’ve got beach-ready abs doesn’t necessarily mean
that all of those layers are strong and working well. Well, that famous muscle I mentioned is the rectus abdominis,
and it’s one that you see demonstrated by fitness models. And yes, it does make up part of your core but it’s very much the external layer. And it’s those layers
that fit in underneath that you can’t actually see that are probably more important as they act to hold your torso
in a really good posture, which then allows you to move your levers, your arms and your legs
and those bigger muscles far more efficiently, and for those muscles to resist fatigue. So basically, having a strong core is going to improve your
efficiency and your endurance. It will come as no surprise
that with the core consisting of so many layers and all
in varying directions, that there’s actually a huge array of strengthening exercises out there. So, I’ve had the hard
task of whittling it down, but I’ve got it to a selection which I’m going to share with you now. We’re going to start
deep, and by that I mean the muscles that are at the bottom layer. Those ones that play such a key role, but are actually almost
impossible to palpate. And you’ll understand this exercise because it really is reflected
in its name, dead bug. You’re basically on your
back and in a position as though a bug as got stuck and died. Right, so once you’re on your back you’re then going to bring
your legs up to 90 degrees so that your shins are
parallel with the ground and your hips and your
knees are pretty much at 90 degree angle, and
hopefully I’m about there. From that you’re going
to take your arms up so they’re facing towards the ceiling. And this is where it’s
important to engage your core, and you want to keep a slight
curve in your lumbar spine, you should be able to almost
get your hand underneath. And you need to maintain
that throughout the exercise. So from here engage your opposite
hand to your opposite leg. You’re going to extend
them away at equal time, so extending your arm above your head as your opposite leg extends away. The other leg and the arm
stay in the same position. And you bring it back to the center. And then repeat on the other side, the whole time only going as far as you can control and
maintain that strong core and lumbar spine position. The most difficult part of that exercise is keeping the movement really smooth and maintaining that lower back position. And it isn’t about how far you can go with your arms and your legs, but more about how much control you have. And yes, you’re probably not
going to get a sweat on doing this but if you do it right
it’s really going to strengthen your core. So if you’re starting out it’s a good idea to aim for somewhere
between five to eight reps on each side, three times through. Let’s mix things up a bit now and move to a mentally easier exercise, but one that’s physically more
demanding, prone walkouts. Okay, so you need to first of all start in the plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders. And then a nice straight line that goes from your shoulders to
your hips and your ankles. And as the exercise sounds,
you’re going to be walking out but with your hands. So from here you’re simply
going to take little steps out to as far as you can control
that nice plank position and then return so that your hands are underneath your shoulders. Now as a progression, you can take it out again to as far as you’re comfortable and hold it momentarily, I’m not staying there that long right now. (chuckles) But obviously
as you get stronger you can hold that longer. Try to repeat this 10 times. Once you’ve done your 10, take a rest and repeat it twice more. (techno music) Back to a dynamic one and an exercise that’s very relevant to running. Start by standing with your feet directly underneath your hips, and you’re going to drive
one knee up to 90 degrees so that your knee is in line with your hip and you’ve got a 90 degree angle at both the knee joint and the hip joint. And you’re going to propel
with the opposite arm just like you would in running. Pause at the top before
lowering back down. And you want to drive this
through 10 times on one leg before swapping and repeating
10 times on the other. This is one of those exercises that might not feel
purely related to core, but as I mentioned earlier, when you’re running you’re
continually engaging your core. And this exercise is really
having the added challenge of focusing on the diagonal movement as well as the need to balance. And feel free to speed it up
and make it nice and dynamic just like you would with running. As long as you can still
manage to keep that balance at the top and maintain that
good posture throughout. Like I said, 10 times on each leg and repeat all of that three
times with a rest in-between. It’s back to the finer control now, let me introduce the superman. It does sound easy, but to do it properly it requires quite a lot of
concentration and patience. Okay, for this one start
in four-point kneeling. So it’s important that your hands are directly underneath your shoulders and your knees are directly
underneath your hips. And the all important
part of this exercise is finding that correct
position in your pelvis. You want to find a neutral spine. So in order to do that we’re
going to go to either extremes. So first of all, tip your pelvis
as far forwards as you can, and you will increase that
lumbar spine extension. Then you’re going to tip
your pelvis all the way back so that you’re flexing your lumbar spine. And now you need to
find that middle point. Once you’ve got that middle point that’s what you need to maintain for the whole of this exercise,
that’s your key point here. Okay, now like dead bug,
you’re going to engage the opposite arm to the opposite leg. But the whole time concentrating on keeping your spine completely still. So once you’ve engaged those, if you slightly lift that
hand and the opposite knee, then you’re going to
extend away very smoothly whilst trying to keep that
spine completely still. If you extend too far
you’ll lose the control in your lumbar spine. Bring it back to the center,
find that position again, and then extend the opposite side. If you got too far, like I
said, you’ll lose the control. Once you’re back to the middle
swap over to the other side. Repeat that just five times on each side ’cause it is a really difficult exercise. And then take a rest,
do it three more times. If you’re finding this too hard, however, you can simply just do
the arms to start with and then you can progress to purely doing the legs on their own. For this last one I’m being really kind, ’cause it starts on your back. Although, it is slightly deceptive and it’s actually the
exercise that I have to admit I dread in my yoga class. But that’s because it really
does get your core firing. For this you want to
resume dead bug position. Instead of your hands going
up to ceiling, though, you’re going to rest them on either thigh. And you need to ideally have
a timer set for 30 seconds, because from this position you
are going to push your hands into your thighs whilst pushing
your thighs into your hands. So basically bracing against
each other for 30 seconds. Once that 30 seconds is
up you take both hands, place them on your left hight, hold this, pushing as hard as you can
for another 30 seconds. And you know the drill here,
yep, onto the right thigh and again hold for 30 seconds. Repeat this back to the first position, both hands, for another 30. You’re going to go through the whole lot four times through and
then you can take a rest and do it all again once more. I think that’s probably enough for you to get started with for now. And remember that you’re
going to be engaging and using those core muscles when you’re doing things
like running drills or squatting in the gym, or any other really full
body dynamic movement. But if you’ve got any core
exercises that you love or are a bit different then
please share them with us and do that in the comment section below. And whilst you’re at it, give us a like and a follow over at GTN.

34 thoughts on “What Is Core Strength & How To Improve It

  1. I like to do plyometric workout twice a week on easy days. 40min light cardio plenty of stretching and core stuff. I think its good conditioning for the little connecting muscles too.

  2. Interesting you call those Superman's I always heard those called Bird Dogs. And a Superman was from an on your stomach position

  3. I have realised how important having a strong core is. I now do yoga and also cross training (squats planks etc) for functional and core strength

  4. I have been trying to find a core routine that works well for triathlon training, I'm excited to add this to my Tuesday/Thursday core training.

  5. Thanks for this, I think this is a routine I could easily incorporate. Any recommendations as to how many times per week to do this?

  6. Cheat Sheet:

    2:38 | Dead Bug: 5-8x each side, 3 sets

    4:15 | Prone Walkouts: 10x, 3 sets ++ hold

    5:09 | Single Leg Hip Drive: 10x each leg, 3 sets
    6:05 | Superman: 5x each side, 3 sets

    7:47 | Table Top Leg Rest: 30s (both, left, right, both), 2 sets

  7. Here's one: start in plank on elbows and forearms on the floor going across the body. Lift left arm to the torso so balanced on right forearm. Twist body so left shoulder pointing up. Then lift left leg sideways so moves upwards, hold a second and go back to elbow plank position but still just on right forearm. Do for reps. Keep core tight and balanced throughout. Then swap sides. I use a pillow under my supporting arm for comfort.

  8. It would be really useful to give us a 25 min gym routine. I’m a big fan of deadlifts and squats, pull-ups, lat downs, but I absolutely hate doing core.

  9. Leg raises are the best! I used to be a gymnast and for our end-of-practise conditioning we would have to hold our legs vertically out in front of us while supporting our weight with our hands on a balance beam for 20 seconds at a time. I still incorporate that into my training because it is brutal! It is really important to make sure you don't arch your lower back when doing these while hanging from a pull-up bar, though; I would definitely recommend starting with bent knees.
    Side plank twists and side plank dips come in second and third, respectively.

  10. I like the way she talks, the way she walks, and everything about her.. so fit and beautiful and i didnt even listen to what she said 😂

  11. Hi GTN, Niket Dalal, an Indian athlete, became the first completely blind person to complete an Ironman 70.3 by finishing the Dubai 70.3. could you please cover this in your next episode. Please Let me know what details you will need and where I can send them

  12. I’m tall and skinny and used to put my lower back out once or twice a year. Since doing dead bugs, super man, plank variations etc I’ve been 4+ years without a back problem, and it only takes a few minutes, once or twice a week, to maintain 🙂

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