3 Core Muscle Exercises That Build Balance & Stability
By Stacy Popke
You may have heard that “core” strength is vital to your well-being. But what is your core, anyway? Your core is composed of three muscle regions on your body: 1) abdominal, 2) pelvic, and 3) lower back. Basically, your core is any muscle located between your pelvis and the base of your ribcage. These muscles work together to support your spine. When you strengthen your core, you gain greater balance and stability. All people, from athletes to grandparents, stand to benefit from maintaining a strong core.
Isometric movements and good posture are important
The following three exercises will get you on your way to a stronger core. As with any exercise, perform your usual warm-up routine. The focus here will be on using isometric movements, or static muscle contractions. Isometric exercises work by maintaining a muscle’s contraction for a period of time. A benefit of isometric training is that it doesn’t wear down your joints.
With each exercise, maintaining good posture is extremely important. For all three exercises, you need to pull your navel in toward your spine while tilting your pubic bone toward your navel, (also known as “scooping”). Shoulders should be down and your chest lifted while keeping your back straight. During each exercise, a good rule of thumb is to exhale on exertion for each repetition.
1. The push away isometric exercise
This sounds like a diet plan, but is actually an effective isometric exercise for strengthening your core. Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Fix your posture as mentioned earlier in this article. Maintain it throughout this exercise.
It’s time for the actual exercise. Keeping your knees bent, lift both legs up. Place a hand on each knee and push forward. At the same time, have your knees resist this force. Hold for at least a count of six (and no fast counting, either). Return to the starting position. Repeat. As your core muscles become stronger, work up to six or more repetitions.
2. Isometric push up exercise
Here, we take the standard push up and maximize its benefits to produce an exercise that will build core stability and endurance. Begin by getting into the normal push up position. That is, arms are extended directly under your shoulders. Your body should be in a straight line—no swaybacks allowed! Keep your neck in a neutral position; don’t let the neck hang down. Hold this pose for a count of six. Hold for longer, up to 30 seconds, for a greater challenge. Rest briefly, and then repeat for two more sets.
3. Pilates hip circle exercise
Known as the “Teaser 4”, you begin this challenging exercise by sitting on the floor with your knees bent. Lean back with your arms extended behind you for support. Hand placement should be wider than your shoulders and with fingers pointing away from the body. Extend and lift both legs up in front of you while maintaining your posture. As your core gets stronger, your leg lift height will also increase.
Keep your legs together as you circle them to one side. Continue circling around to the starting position. Remember to breathe! Maintain control of your posture as you circle around. Do not compromise good form for a bigger circle motion. If your posture cannot hold up, then reduce your range of motion until your core is stronger. Do this exercise with your legs circling in the opposite direction. Repeat for two or three times.
How often should I perform these isometric exercises?
Do these exercises at least twice a week for optimal results. Also, core training is just one component for well-being and good health. Proper diet, good posture throughout the day, and regular physical activity are all a part of a healthy lifestyle. Cheers to your good health!
A former weight training instructor and Montessori school teacher, Stacy Popke works as a freelance writer specializing in fitness-related articles.