Why do core strength workouts? Well, getting a flat stomach or a ‘six-pack’ is a common goal, who would say no to one of these?!
a triathlete, this six-pack isn’t desirable from a vanity point of view
(OK, maybe sometimes it is…), more from the fact that a strong core helps improve performance.
Level 1 Your core muscles play a key role in supporting the spine and helping you to maintain good posture. This means that you will stay an injury-free, efficient athlete, able to fully recruit all the right muscles for performance.
A strong core comes from more than just working your abs, and other pages in the strength section cover a wide range of exercises that will help improve your core stability and strength.
Here though, for those of you wanting to flatten that stomach and improve your core strength, is a succession of core strength workouts to help you do so. We've included some video clips to help you get the exercises right.
The gradual progression is intentional. Jump straight in with hundred-mile an hour sit ups and you not only risk straining your neck, but you will also miss working out the muscles that form the basis of abdominal strength.
The key muscle here is called transversus abdominus, or TA for simplicity. This muscle wraps around your torso from front to back and from the ribs to your pelvis. Practice activating your TA muscles and then aim to have these activated during all the exercises included here.
To active your TA muscles, lie flat on your back with your knees bent so the soles of your feet rest on the floor.
Then pull your belly button to the floor, which should very slightly tilt your hips up. Put your hands on your hips with your fingers pointing down and slightly in and resting just over your hip bones onto your stomach. You may be able to feel the TA muscles contracting.
This exercise forms part 1 of the core strength workouts.
These exercises can be done before a circuit session or at the end of a gym session, or even after a bike, run or swim session.
1) Transverse Abdominus Activation - as aboveDo this 3 x 10 times holding for 2 – 3 seconds, with 20 – 30seconds between sets.
2) As above but straighten a leg out (without it touching the floor), then return it, and do the same with the other leg, and repeat.
3) As above but straighten one leg and then move it out to the side, back to the middle and then back to the starting position. Again swop to the other leg, and repeat.
This video illustrates these exercises:
4) Supermans: Position yourself on your hands and knees on the floor, with your back flat. Without letting your hips move or your back sag, slowly stretch out one hand and the opposite foot. Don’t bring your leg or arm above horizontal. Lower and repeat on the other side.
5) Aleknas: Lie on your back with your arms raised above your head and your knees bent (90 angle at hip). Then extend your arms and legs so that you are in a straight line, but don’t allow your arms or legs to touch the floor. Return to the start position and repeat. Keep those TA muscles activated and maintain a neutral spine position.
6) Planks: A great exercise for working your abs as well as back muscles. Keep your shoulders and hips in line - don't let your hips sag - see photo below.
Build up the duration you can hold this position for, with the aim being to get over 2 minutes.
Once you can get up to around 90 seconds to 2 minutes, you can include the variations below.
7) Aeroplanes: Stand on one foot with your arms out to either side. Bend forwards from your hips, and then twist your upper body to one side. Keep your shoulders and rib cage moving together so that your whole trunk turns, not just your shoulders. Keep your hips stable.
Moving on from Level 1, a series of exercises that are slightly more dynamic, looking at overall core strength.
Progress to including these exercises once you have a good basic level of core strength. These are more dynamic exercises for overall core strength.