When people think of their core they often think about their six pack (or their gut), but definitely not their deep core. Core muscles are so much more than just the ones you see on IG. While you might be focused on the aesthetic improvements, by strengthening your deep core you’ll also see improvements in the stabilization of your spine, hips (lumbo pelvic hip complex), and so much more. Before we get into the exercises, lets learn more about what your deep core actually is and what the other benefits of strengthening your deep core are.
What Is Your “Deep Core”
There are four (4) layers to your abdominal muscles. Going from the deepest to the most superficial (the outside of your body), it starts with the transverse abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique, to the rectus abdominis. The deep core is comprised of the muscles inside the ones you can see on the outside and these are the ones that contribute to keeping you injury free, stabilizing the spine for activity, and supporting posture, for example. When the deep core isn’t functioning well, maybe because of things like an injury, being sedentary in your lifestyle, or back injuries, you may experience back pain or limitations in your overall movement and lifestyle due to a lack of strength in the deep core. Which is why, bringing us to the next point, there are many benefits to doing deep core exercises regularly.
Benefits Of Deep Core Exercises
By performing the following deep core exercises you’re not only going to improve your core musculature. You will also be supporting other important functions in your body, like your posture, giving your diaphragm more room for your lungs to expand when you breathe, improve your pelvic floor function (and sexual enjoyment, say what!) just to name a few. When done and performed correctly, you should also expect to see improvements in the recruitment of other supporting muscles, like the glutes, back extensors, and your leg muscles.
Breathing For Deep Core Exercises
Before we get too deep into the next 5 deep core exercises you should be doing regularly, it is important to understand how to activate and breathe properly for deep core exercises. If there’s one thing we’re going to hammer into you, it is alining your pelvic floor, lengthening your spine, and using your breathing/oxygen intake to support your deep core muscle building abilities.
Start by standing in a neutral position with your hips and spine. This means planting your feet firmly into the ground (about shoulder width), locking the knees, tucking the pelvis so that your glutes are activated, tucking the ribs so there’s not an arch in your low back and that your ribs aren’t flared forward, standing with a tall chest, shoulders back, and your neck in line with your gaze forward. You can imagine a little string going from your feet to the top of your head, pulling you upward in a straight line.
From here, we recommend putting one hand on your lower ribs, inhaling through your nose, and feeling the breathe fill not only the upper lobe, but the lower lobe of your lungs, expanding the ribcage as the core stays stabilized. In the exhale, imagine pulling your pelvic floor (your lady or man parts, for example) inward, like you’re trying to contract your muscles to stop peeing (yes, we know we’re getting personal here). Another word for this area is your ‘sacral chakra, pulling it up and inward towards your belly button in a vertical manner. As you stabilize and brace your core with proper posture, this is the breathing technique you’re going to use as you perform the following deep core exercises for optimal results and deep core activation.
The 5 Best Deep Core Exercises
The following deep core exercises can be done by anyone, at anytime, and anywhere. If the movement is too advanced, then we recommend using a modification, like dropping the knee on the side plank, not using weights on the rows, or using the knees on the plank. Remember to use your breathing technique, brace the core, pull the pelvic chakra inward, and core exercise your heart away!
- Start by sitting on your side
- Place your forearm on the ground, tucking your pelvis, and having good alignment in the core
- From here, you can either push up with both legs, or just one leg, for a modification
- Hold the side plank for :15 seconds to 1:00 minute, then switch sides
- Start on your knees and hands
- The arms should be right in line with the shoulders
- The legs/knees should be at a 90 degree angle
- Bracing the core, with a neutral gaze at the ground to keep your neck in line with your spine, slowly begin to raise one leg and the opposite arm
- Reach out, keeping the shoulders and the hips in a neutral, flat position
- Squeeze the core, hold this position in full extension for a 1-2 count, then retract the arm and leg back to the original starting point
- Repeat on both sides 10-20 reps before resting (don't forget to breathe!)
Shoulders Elevated Glute Bridge March
- Start by placing the shoulder blades on the bench, tucking the pelvis, and planting the feet firmly into the ground with a 90 degree bend at the knee
- From here, use the arms to stabilize the shoulders, gaze forward, and march with one leg at a time, keeping the core tight and breathing through the movement
- You do not want an arch in your back
- In a plank position on the toes or on the knees, this movement can be done with or without dumbbells/weights
- Straighten the arms on the weights, keeping the hips neutral (you might need to go wider with the foot stance), row one arm up, keeping the core tight, squeezing the back, and keeping your gaze straight down to the floor
- Release the weight back to the starting position and perform the same movement on the other side
- Make sure to keep breathing, keep your core tight, spine in line, and do not arch your back
- The stomach vacuum can be performed sitting, kneeling, or standing
- Align your spine with good posture, standing up straight, with your feet shoulder width apart
- Inhale, squeezing in the stomach tightening all the deep core muscles with the contraction
- Try to hold this for :20 - :60 seconds in total for 10-20 reps in total
Deep Core Exercises: Takeaway
While having a 6, 8, or 12 pack visible is cool and all, the deep core shouldn't be overlooked as the innermost (and most important) group of muscle to train. With these 5 exercises you'll be well on your way to work the 4 muscle groups of the core so you can avoid injury, improve posture, and see bigger leaps and bounds in your overall aesthetic and performance both in and out of the gym.
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