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Understanding Core Muscles and Best Core Strengthening Exercises

Understanding Core Muscles and Best Core Strengthening Exercises

You may only feel your core muscles while doing crunches or any core-specific exercises. But these muscles are engaged throughout the day while walking, running, getting up from a chair, or even when you are just standing upright.

Core strength is more important than you think. It is not only about achieving those sharp abs, core strength plays a significant role in maintaining your musculoskeletal system.

If you have bad form, your shoulders hunch forward as you run or you are unable to lift heavy weight on presses and deadlifts. This is probably because you lack core strength.

We can say that you use core muscles when getting out of your bed in the morning to when you go to sleep in the evening.

If you are engaging a muscle group throughout the day, then its strength becomes much more important. That’s why we have brought you the best core strengthening exercises.

Read More: Best Beginner Ab Workout To Build Abs of Steel

Table of Contents

1. Understanding The Core Anatomy

You might think that when talking about the core muscles, we mean the front part of your abdomen. True, but that’s only one part of your core.

Like every major muscle in your body, the core also comprises the majority of smaller muscle groups. Your core muscles stretch deeper than you might think.

Having a good understanding of your core anatomy before you start training is important to maintain a strong mind-muscle connection. And it allows you to engage the maximum amount of muscle fibers.

We have created this article so you can get the best out of your workout and know which exercise will be targeting which muscle groups in your core.

Here we will be talking about your full core region. We are using this term  because most of the time, people use the term abs to describe the core section.

Understanding The Core Anatomy

1.1. Rectus Abdominis


1.1.1. Where Are They Found?


The Rectus Abdominis is the muscles that run laterally bottom-to-top. They originate from your pelvis and extend to the sternum.

Vertically, the Rectus Abdominis is separated by linea alba while horizontally, it’s separated by four bands of connective tissues which make them appear like  boxes.

These muscle separations create the six to eight different muscle sections from where it gets the name “six-pack.”

1.1.2. What Is Its Basic Function?


These muscles help in the flexion of the trunk, from top to bottom and vice versa.

For More: Top Shoulder Strength Workout for BJJ Athletes

1.2. External Obliques


1.2.1. Where Are They Found?


The muscles which run diagonally across your abdomen region are known as external obliques. They originate from the lower eight ribs and extend along your pelvis.

The direction of these muscles is oriented at an oblique angle from where they get the name external obliques.

1.2.2. What Is Its Basic Function?


Help in rotation of the trunk, lateral flexion of the trunk, and also help in bilateral contraction of the abdomen.

1.3. Internal Obliques


1.3.1. Where Are They Found?


As you can tell from the name, these muscles are found beneath the external obliques. Surprisingly, these muscles run in the opposite direction of external obliques.

They originate from the hip bone and extend upwards to the lower three ribs.

1.3.2. What Is Its Basic Function?


Their function is the same as the external obliques. They control rotation, flex the trunk laterally and compress your abdomen.

Read More: Learn How Yoga Can Treat Unwanted Headaches

1.4. Transverse Abdominis


1.4.1. Where Are They Found?


The transverse abdominis is a very deep muscle. They are found below your internal obliques and play an important part in stabilizing your pelvis.

It originates from the connective tissues at the center of your torso and extends towards your lower back.

As these muscles run around your waist, they are also known as your natural weight belt.

1.4.2. What Is Its Basic Function?


Keeps your body stable and protects the internal organs by keeping them in place. While performing heavy squats, deadlifts, or overhead presses, the transverse abdominis gives you a stable base point.

1.5. Serratus Anterior


1.5.1. Where Are They Found?


The serratus anterior is one of the forgotten core muscles that most people do not talk about.

It is found just above your external obliques and covers the side of your ribcage.

1.5.2. What Is Its Basic Function?


The basic function of the Serratus muscle is to stabilize the scapula and assist in upward rotation.

For More: Best Hamstring Gym Workout For Beginners

2. What Is The Perfect Core Workout Sequence?

While performing core strengthening exercises, you might have felt that lower abs exercises are most difficult to perform.

It is because the weight of your legs is always very difficult to lift compared to your torso. So, you should train your lower abs when you have the most energy at the beginning of your workout.

2.1. Follow This Core Workout Sequence


1. Bottom-Up Core Strengthening Exercises:

  • Leg raises.
  • Reverse crunches.
  • Runner’s crunch.
  • Flutter kicks.

2. Bottom-Up Rotation Exercises

  • Seated abs circle.
  • Hanging leg circles.

3. Obliques

  • Russian twist.
  • Rotating side plank.
  • Bicycle crunches.

4. Midrange Movements

  • Elbow to knee plank.
  • Scissor kicks sit-ups.

5. Top-Down Rotation Movements

  • Landmine rainbow.
  • Cable anti-rotation.
  • Dead bug.

3. Tips Before You Do Core Strengthening Exercises

Before you gear up to perform core strengthening exercises, read these professional tips to get the most out of your workout.

3.1. Can You Work Out Your Abs Every Day?


Like every other muscle in your body, the core muscles also need time to recover. The majority of people are fascinated by the idea that more is better so we should train our cores every day.

No, you should only target your core at least twice or thrice a week at a minimum.

3.2. How Long Your Ab Workout Should Be?


Your core workout sessions should be about 10 to 15 minutes each so you start sweating and feel your abs pumping. This is excluding the rest times between sets.

3.3. Can I Abs By Not Eating For 10 Days?


As said before, your core is just like all the other muscles in your body. Lower fat levels are not the only thing you need to develop abs.

You need to take proper care of your diet and be mindful of what you are eating. Skipping meals will not be any help if you wish to build abs. In fact, you will be subject to various health problems.

Stay away from sugary foods, consume lean protein, fiber, and some carbs for maintaining a healthy body.

Read More: What Should You Eat As a BJJ Athlete

3.4. What’s The Proper Way Of Breathing While Doing Ab Exercises


Correct breathing techniques can go a long way in perfecting your ab workout. Make sure that your breath is coming from your belly instead of your chest.

To specify, when exhaling with your mouth, your belly should move inwards towards your spine.

Similarly while inhaling through your nose, your belly should move away from your spine.

You should exhale while contracting your core muscles and inhale while relaxing them. Make sure that you do not lose mind-muscle connection while trying to focus on your breathing pattern.

For More: Core Strengthening Exercises For BJJ Practitioners To Improve Their Game

3.5. Don’t Limit Core Strengthening Exercises Only To Abs


As discussed, the rectus abdominis or the abs is only a part of your core. To strengthen all the muscle groups in your core, you need to add compound movements to your exercises.

While doing the majority of compound movements, your core is engaged to help you stay stable. Some of the best compound movements that involve core strengthening are:

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  • Deadlifts.
  • Burpees.
  • Jumping squats.
  • Weighted squats.

3.6. Notice If You Feel Any Pain In Your Body


The core strengthening exercises should not cause any pain or discomfort in your body. Muscular pain in your abs due to muscle hypertrophy is not what we are talking about here.

But if you feel any discomfort in your lower back, glutes, or ribs, then you are probably doing the exercises with the wrong form.

4. Best Core Strengthening Exercises

4.1. Hollowman: Abdominal Muscle Exercises

 

Hollowman: Abdominal Muscle Exercises

 

4.1.1. What Are The Benefits Of Performing It?


This exercise engages your overall core muscles. It targets the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quads, inner thighs, and obliques.

It is an isometric hold exercise which means your core is activated but the body is not moving. The hollowman exercise is great for improving your spinal stability and stabilizing your lower back.

4.1.2. How To Perform It?


  • Start by lying with your back on the mat.
  • Contract your abs and push your back towards the ground.
  • Lift our legs above the floor.
  • Lift your head off the floor, extending your arms behind you. Keep your lower back pressed against the floor.
  • Hold this position for 30sec- 1min.

4.2. Superman Pull: Strengthen Core

 

Superman Pull: Strengthen Core

4.2.1. What Are The Benefits Of Performing It?


The superman pull exercise is great for strengthening the erector spinae muscles whose function is to support your spine.

Sitting in front of your desk throughout the day can give you a hunched posture. The superman pulls are one of the best ways to improve your posture and prevent discomfort.

This exercise also targets your glutes and hamstrings so you get stronger legs.

4.2.2. How To Perform It?


  • Lie on the mat with your face down. Extend your legs and arms.
  • Now, lift your legs and arms, you should feel the contraction in your lower back.
  • Lift your upper torso, legs, and arms at the same time. Try to lift your belly button off the floor.
  • Lower yourself to the starting position and repeat this movement for the required number of sets.

4.3. High Knee Plank Cross: Oblique Muscle Exercises

High Knee Plank Cross: Oblique Muscle Exercises

4.3.1. What Are The Benefits Of Performing It?


The high knee plank cross exercise is beneficial for targeting your obliques. This exercise also engages your abs, back muscles, and hip flexors.

4.3.2. How To Perform It?


  • Start in a plank position. The shoulder should be above your wrists and feet combined together.
  • Lift your right leg and touch your right knee with your left elbow, from bringing it under your belly.
  • Bring your leg back and repeat the same movement with the opposite side.
  • Continue doing this transition for the required number of sets.

4.4. Standing Superman: Building Core Strength

 

Standing Superman: Building Core Strength

 

4.4.1 What Are The Benefits Of Performing It?


The standing superman exercise is the same as doing it while lying on the floor. However, your core muscles have to do extra work to help you stay stable when you perform this exercise while standing.

This exercise will also help you to develop a good sense of balance.

4.2.2. How To Perform It?


  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Slightly bend both knees.
  • Lift your leg behind yours and extend your left arm in front of you.
  • Bend your torso until it's parallel with the floor.
  • Hold this position for 3-5 sec.
  • Repeat this movement with your opposite side.

4.5. Leg Raises: Lower Ab Muscles

 

Leg Raises: Lower Ab Muscles

 

4.5.1. What Are The Benefits Of Performing It?


The lower abs are one of the more difficult regions of your core to train. At a lower body fat percentage, the abs in your middle section might be more prominent. But to develop lower abs, you need to put in some extra hard work.

Leg raises are one of the most effective exercises to lose lower belly fat and strengthen your core. Performing this exercise also helps strengthen your lower back.

Moreover, the leg raises help to build flexibility in your hips and back muscles.

4.5.2. How To Perform It?


  • Lie back on the mat.
  • Place your arms parallel to your body.
  • Lift your legs till they are above your belly.
  • Hold this position for a moment and then drop your legs, making sure that your toes touch the floor.
  • Repeat this movement for the required number of sets.

4.6. Ankle Touches: Obliques Muscle Workout


4.6.1. What Are The Benefits Of Performing It?


The ankle touches are a great exercise for engaging your core. This is one of those exercises which require minimum movement but still offer many benefits.

4.6.2. How To Perform It?


  • Lie with your back on the mat.
  • Bend your knees to a 90-degree angle.
  • Your hands should be parallel to your sides and slightly lift your shoulders.
  • Now, rotate your midsection towards your left ankle in such a way that your hands touch your heel.
  • Repeat the same movement with the opposite side for the required number of sets.

5. Conclusion

If you learn what movements target which core muscles then you can efficiently plan your core workouts. We have listed some of the best core-strengthening exercises here.

Do not be afraid to try advanced versions of these exercises but make sure you follow the core workout sequence while planning out your core strengthening workout.

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