This is the right way to engage your core while exercising

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You’ve probably heard about the importance of having good core muscle strength. A strong core can improve posture, prevent back pain, and help you feel more capable and confident in your body.

 

But did you know that having a strong core by itself is not enough? In fact, what’s equally important is knowing how to use your core the right way so you can protect your back during exercise and more strenuous activities in daily life.

 

You see, having a strong core without knowing how to skillfully engage it or activate it is like owning a fast car without knowing how to take corners with it. You’re great on the straightways but all that horsepower is no good when you have to go through twists and turns.

 

In the same way, you can work hard to develop a strong core, but it may not do you much good if you’re not skillfully using it while bending, lifting, or twisting your body during exercise and more strenuous activities in daily life.

 

Having worked with thousands of clients of all ages, weight, and fitness levels over the years, I’ve found that knowing how to engage or activate the core is the key puzzle piece that’s missing for most people.

Showing my clients how to skillfully use their core in addition to exercises to strengthen their core has been such a game-changer, that I’ve decided to share this knowledge in my newly launched book 6-Minute Core Strength: Simple Core Exercises to Improve Posture, Build Balance, and Relieve Back Pain.

 

Learn more about 6-Minute Core Strength by going to sixminutefitness.com

What does it mean to “engage” or “activate” your core?

But first, let’s talk about what the core is and what it does, just so we’re all on the same page. Most people think of the core as simply the rectus abdominis muscles, otherwise known as the “six-pack” muscles on the front of the abdomen.

 

But your core is much more than that. The core is the center of your body, and it’s made up of layers of muscles that surround the front, the sides, and the back of your torso.

 

The core is essential for just about every movement we do and activity we perform. This is true for people of all ages and fitness levels in daily life and sports activities.

 

When you stiffen or engage the core muscles, your torso becomes a rigid yet flexible cylinder, like a natural back brace or weightlifting belt, that supports your body and offloads harmful compressive forces from your spine.

 

So it’s no surprise that a strong core is important for helping you maintain good posture, prevent back pain, improve balance, prevent injuries, and boost athletic performance. What is surprising to most people is that having a strong core is not enough.

 

Being able to stiffen, fire, engage, or activate your core muscles on command during exercise or during strenuous activities like bending, lifting, or twisting in daily life is just as important as having a strong core.

 

This is something that should happen automatically, but, for various reasons, it doesn’t happen as it should for a lot of us. One of the most common reasons I see with my clients is a simple forgetting of how our bodies were meant to move as a result of life in the modern world.

 

Learning how to engage our core gets less attention than learning how to strengthen our core, probably because firing the core muscles of your abdomen, lower back, and pelvis during exercise or movement is not something that can be observed by anyone.

 

So although everyone can see whether you’re bending, lifting, and twisting with the proper body mechanics, no one can actually see if you’re properly engaging your core. I definitely think that the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” plays a role here. But also, being able to engage your core is something that is a subtle skill that takes practice and patience.

6 steps to using your core the right way

Here are 6 steps from my new book 6-Minute Core Strength that’ll help you get started. These steps describe a technique called abdominal bracing that can be used during exercise and more strenuous activities in daily life to reduce pain, prevent injuries, and improve performance.

 

Try practicing these steps for a few minutes two or three times a day. Approach each step slowly and intentionally, as if you were an explorer discovering something new. This will ensure that you’ll bring the conscious awareness needed for your brain to switch into learning mode.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor slightly apart.
  2. Place the fingers of your left and right hand on either side of your belly button, about one inch away from the center. Your fingers will help you monitor the stiffness of your abdominal muscles.
  3. Fire your pelvic floor muscles by pretending that you have to urinate and then stopping the flow of urine. Notice the pelvic floor muscles at the bottom of your pelvis tighten and lift when you do this.
  4. While keeping your pelvic floor muscles firing, fire your abdominal muscles as if you’re bracing for a punch and notice your abdominal muscles tighten under your fingers.
  5. While keeping your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles firing, breathe all the way down to the belly button through your nose. Use your fingers to ensure that your abdominal muscles remain tight as you inhale and exhale five times at a normal pace.
  6. Stop what you’re doing, and completely relax for 30 seconds to allow your brain a chance to integrate this work. Repeat these steps three to five times.

After you’ve practiced these steps for a few days, try to fire your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles during exercise and more strenuous daily activities. Notice how you feel when you do this while standing up from sitting, bending over to pick up something, or lifting something heavy.

 

If you want to learn more about how to strengthen and engage your core, check out my new book 6-Minute Core Strength by going to sixminutefitness.com.

5-day core bracing challenge

Let’s put this knowledge to use with a 5-day core bracing challenge! Over the next five days, your challenge is to practice the 6 steps at least once daily and apply what you learned to exercise and more strenuous movements in daily life. Give it a try and let me know how you feel by emailing me at getfitguy@quickanddirtytips.com or leaving me a voicemail at 510-353-3104.

 

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

This article originally appeared on Quick and Dirty Tips and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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20 exercises you can do at home to pump up aging muscles

 

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health as an older adult. Not only can it help to prevent many health problems that often come with age, it helps to keep your muscles stronger so day-to-day activities are easier.

While the Centers for Disease Control recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week for older adults, it’s important to remember that some physical activity is better than none at all, so do what you can. But the benefits usually increase with the more physical activity that you do.

The following 20 exercises are for seniors to help strength and balance.
All exercises can be done without weights and with minimal movement.

If
you are new to exercise, start with no more than 5 repetitions for each
exercise to relieve pressure on your ligaments and tendons. If you have health conditions, it’s important to understand how they might affect your ability to do regular physical activity safely. Talk to your doctor before beginning any new workout regimen.

 

Wavebreakmedia/istockphoto

 

1. Stand up straight and tall.

2. Raise your arms to shoulder height.

3. Place your feet hip’s width apart and point them straight ahead.

4. Feel most of your weight on your heels.

5. Slowly squat down to a comfortable depth, without slumping your
back.

6. Slowly squat down to a comfortable depth

7. Keep your back firm, without slumping.

8. Slowly stand back up straight and tall to beginning position.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Sit on the edge of a chair.

2. Lean back on the chair.

3. Extended your knees.

4. Keep your heels on the floor with toes point upward.

5. Kick your right knee up as high as possible.

6. Extend it back to the ground/floor.

7. Then kick your left knee up as high as possible.

8. Extend it back to the ground/floor.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Lie flat on your back.

2. Keep your hips and shoulders firmly on the ground.

3. Keep your feet together.

4. Raise your left leg as high as possible.

5. Keep you left knee bent with your hips firmly on the ground.

6. Lower your left leg back to the ground.

7. Repeat steps 4-6 with your right leg.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Lie on your back.

2. Bend your knees.

3. Keep your feet flat on the floor/ground.

4. Raise your hips as high as possible.

5. Keep both shoulder blades flat on the ground.

6. Lower your hips down to the ground to starting position.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Lie flat on your back.

2. Keep your hips and shoulders firmly on the ground.

3. Keep your feet together.

4. Raise both legs up to the sky.

5. Keep your feet together.

6. Keep your knees extended as much as possible.

7. Lower your legs back to the ground.

8. Repeat steps 4-7.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Lie on your back.

2. Bend your knees.

3. Keep your feet flat on the floor/ground.

4. Raise both knees as high as possible.

5. Keep your knees bent.

6. Lower your feet back to the ground to starting position.

7. Repeat steps 4-6.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Kneel on hands and knees.

2. Keep your hands under your shoulders.

3. Keep your knees under your hips.

4. Raise your left arm and right leg fully extended.

5. Lower your left arm and right leg back to starting position.

6. Raise your right arm and left leg fully extended.

7. Lower your right arm and left leg back to starting position.

8. Repeat steps 4-7.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Kneel on hand and knees with left leg fully extended.

2. Keep your left toe on the ground.

3. Keep hands directly underneath shoulders.

4. Raise your left leg toward the sky.

5. Keep your left knee fully extended with your left leg as straight as
possible.

6. Bring your left toe back to the ground.

7. Repeat steps 4-6.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Kneeling position with palms on the floor.

2. Knuckles should be directly below the eyes.

3. Knees should be hip’s width apart.

4. Raise knees off the floor to a plank position.

5. Bring knees back down to the floor to the starting position.

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5.

 

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Sit in a chair.

2. Knees at a 90-degree angle.

3. Feet flat on the floor.

4. Raise your left foot by extending your left knee.

5. Bring your left foot back to the floor to starting position.

6. Raise your right foot by extending your right knee.

7. Bring your right food back to the floor to starting position.

8. Repeat steps 4-7.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Sit on the floor.

2. Keep your back firm (don’t slump) and lean back slightly.

3. Keep knees bent at a 90-degree angle.

4. Keep heels on the floor with toes pointing up.

5. Place hands on hamstrings for back support.

6. Raise your left foot by extending your left knee.

7. Bring your left foot back to the floor to starting position.

8. Raise your right foot by extending your right knee.

9. Bring your right foot back to the floor to starting position.

10. Repeat steps 6-9.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Stand straight up.

2. Feet shoulder width apart.

3. Arms hanging at the side.

4. Bend over by hinging at the waist.

5. Do not slump the lower or upper back.

6. Arms hanging gently toward the floor.

7. Stand back up to starting position.

8. Repeat steps 4-7.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.

2. Raise your arms to shoulder height.

3. Bend your elbows to 90-degrees.

4. Lower your hands to shoulder height, while keeping your elbow high.

5. Raise your arms back to starting position.

6. Repeat 4 and 5.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Stand tall with feet shoulder width apart.

2. Let your arms hang gently at your side.

3. Palms are pointing toward each other.

4. Raise arms forward until hands point upward toward the sky.

5. Lower arms back to your side to starting position.

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Stand tall with feet shoulder width apart.

2. Raise your arms to the side at shoulder width height.

3. Bend you elbows 90-degrees with palms facing downward.

4. Keep your hips stable while rotating your shoulders to the left.

5. Rotate your shoulders in the opposite direction to the right.

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Lie on your back.

2. Raise your hands to gently touch your head.

3. Bend your knees.

4. Keep your feet flat on the floor/ground.

5. Raise your head and shoulders off the floor/ground.

6. Lower your back and head toward the floor/ground.

7. Repeat steps 5 and 6.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Stand tall with feet shoulder width apart.

2. Let your arms hang gently at your side.

3. Raise your left knee and right arm.

4. Lower them back to the floor/ground.

5. Raise your right knee and left arm.

6. Lower them back to the floor/ground.

7. Repeat steps 3-6.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Kneel on hands and knees.

2. Keep your hands under your shoulders.

3. Keep your knees under your hips.

4. Raise your right arm straight forward.

5. Lower your right arm back to the floor/ground.

6. Raise your left arm straight forward.

7. Lower your left arm back to the floor/ground.

8. Repeat steps 4-7.

 

Kirk Charles

 

1. Stand tall with feet shoulder width apart.

2. Place hands on hips or let your arms hang gently at your side.

3. Flex your left knee and raise your foot backward.

4. Lower your left foot back to the floor/ground.

5. Flex your right knee and raise your foot backward.

6. Lower your right foot back to the floor/ground.

7. Repeat steps 3-6.

 

1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart.

2. Raise arms to shoulder height with palms facing each other.

3. Swing arms backward as far as possible.

4. Bring arms back to shoulder height.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4.

Kirk Charles is a Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist with the National Academy of Sports Medicine; a Group Exercise Instructor with the Aerobics & Fitness Association of America; and a Certified Golf Fitness Instructor with the Titleist Performance Institute. He has authored a self-empowerment book, Live in the Power Zone; and he has developed a unique and exciting workout program for those who are in a sedentary profession entitled The 2-Minute Office Workout.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

Kirk Charles

 

Featured Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

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