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December 07, 2021 9 min read

If you would like to learn more about engaging your core, you have come to the right place.

The core consists of all of the muscles surrounding your trunk, such as your abdominals, obliques, diaphragm, pelvic floor, trunk extensors, and hip flexors.

Your core provides mobility to allow your torso to move in a flexible way. It also provides stability to the trunk for balance, and it allows you to perform movements like lifting weights and standing up from chairs. 

Warming Up Your Core

As always, to avoid any risk of injury while exercising, be sure to do a proper warm-up before you start so that you can come out with the maximum possible benefits. Warming up and cooling down properly are integral parts of your workout routine and they should be done with great care and patience. 

Although abdominal exercises might seem a little bit painful when you first attempt them, putting your body into challenging positions can really improve your core stability, improve your total body strength, and increase your overall range of motion in ways that you might not have thought possible.

Abdominal exercises are very useful ways to build up the strength and stability of your core.

They can also help mobilize your thoracic spine and your hips. Also, many types of ab exercises are really tough ones and you will often feel like you have had a very effective workout after completing them.

core muscles anatomy chart

What Exactly Are Your Core Muscles? 

Your core muscles are generally involved in many of your normal daily activities such as breathing, posture control, urination, and defecation. Every time you exhale or inhale, your diaphragm helps allow the air to flow into and out of your lungs.

Here, we will discuss what the core muscles are and their role in trunk stability. Your core is an extensive area of your body located in your mid-section and it comprises several important muscle groups, including all of your ab muscles, the pelvic floor, the diaphragm, back extensors, and hip flexors.

  • Rectus abdominis: The rectus abdominis, known more casually as the six-pack muscle, attaches from your lower ribs to the front of your pelvis and it stabilizes your trunk. For example, when you’re doing pushups, it keeps your pelvis and trunk level. The primary movement it performs is bringing the shoulders toward the pelvis, such as when you sit up in bed or perform a crunch. 
  • Internal and external obliques: The internal and external obliques attach on the lateral sides of the trunk from your ribs to your pelvis and provide stability to the front and sides of your trunk. Their primary movements involve trunk rotation, such as when you swing a heavy bat, and side bending. 
  • Transverse abdominis: The transverse abdominis attaches from the lower spine under your ribs and around your body to the rectus abdominis. It is the deepest of the abdominal muscles, and it tightens up and provides support to the spine. 
  • Pelvic floor: The pelvic floor muscles are attached to the underside of your pelvis. These muscles are very important when it comes to starting and stopping the flow of urine and feces. 
  • Diaphragm: The diaphragm is attached to the underside of your lower ribs. It is primarily responsible for helping you breathe in and out. 
  • Back extensors: Your back extensors are multilayered muscles. They include the erector spinae muscles, quadratus lumborum, and multifidi. All of these are attached along the spine to your pelvis. Their job is to support the spine when you are bending forward and lifting loads, such as during squats or when you are doing bicep curls. 
  • Hip flexors: Hip flexors include the psoas and iliacus muscles. These are also attached to the spine and the inside of your pelvis. They bring your legs toward your torso, such as when you are trying to do high knee exercises. 

Good Exercises for Core Engagement

Below are some basic abdominal stability exercises that beginners can easily incorporate into their workout regimen to engage their core. This is not an exhaustive list but it might help you understand more about how to engage your core muscles. In order to activate your core, it is very important to keep your back straight and rigid with a good posture.

Also, tighten your glutes as you are doing the exercises. In general, pilates can be considered a good way to achieve an engaged core. Pilates is an exercise regimen that is usually performed on a floor mat or with the use of specialized apparatus. The regimen aims to improve flexibility and stability by strengthening the torso-stabilizing muscles of your abdomen and lower back.

In addition to that general advice, there are all kinds of fitness class exercises that will go a long way toward helping you engage your core muscles. Some of the most basic ones include the abdominal draw, the bird dog, the plank, the dead bug, and the bridge.

  • The Abdominal Draw: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Suck your stomach in and imagine bringing your belly button to your spine. You should still be able to breathe but you should feel the muscles around your abdomen and sides tighten. Your back should not move and also make sure it is not arched or pushed into the ground. Hold for up to 10 seconds. Relax and repeat the movement. 
  • The Bird Dog: Kneel on your hands and knees. Flatten your back without arching up or sinking in. Start by reaching one arm out in front of you so that it’s even with your head and torso. Then extend the opposite leg out, in line with your torso and arm. Make sure to keep your hips facing down toward the floor, rather than turned out toward the side. You should feel the muscles in your abdomen and back working. Hold for up to 10 seconds, then repeat the movement with the opposite arm and leg. 
  • The Plank: Begin in a pushup position on your hands and toes. If this is too difficult, you can support yourself on your knees and elbows. Draw your abdomen toward your spine and keep your buttocks in line with your body. You should feel all the muscles in your abdomen working. Hold this position for up to 60 seconds. Be aware that this exercise puts high loads on your spine. If you have any type of back pain, we suggest that you skip this exercise. 
  • The Side Plank: Turn on your side with your elbow on the ground and one foot on top of the other. Lift your hip into the air so that your side is perpendicular to the ground and you can support yourself on your forearm and the side of your foot. Maintain good alignment of your feet, hips, and elbow. Also, keep your shoulder over your elbow. You should feel the obliques in your lower side working. Hold this position for up to 60 seconds. 
  • The Dead Bug: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Tighten your abdominals and keep your back flat as you lift your knees so that your hips and knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Slowly tap one toe to the ground and return. To increase the difficulty level, extend your arms straight up over your shoulders. As you lower one foot down to the ground, reach the opposite arm back overhead, keeping your lower back on the floor and your ribs pulled in. Only extend your leg as far as you can while keeping your back flat. Return and switch sides. 
  • The Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Keep your trunk and your pelvis together as you squeeze your buttocks and lift them off the ground. Hold for a count of five. Relax and repeat the movement. 

Using a Captain’s Chair to Engage Your Core

 

If you have been going to a local gym for any length of time, you have probably seen people using a piece of equipment called the captain’s chair. It might look a little intimidating at first but if you use this machine correctly, it can really help you engage your core and build up those strong and powerful abs that you are looking for.

Generally, this machine is excellent for engaging your core and building your abs. Exercises that involve the captain’s chair are mostly very good at targeting your rectus abdominis, or abdominal muscles. But the machine can also be good for so much more than just a basic ab workout. 

It is also perfect for training your abdominal hip flexors and external obliques. There are a range of isolation exercises that allow you to focus on building that strong core. The captain’s chair is a fine tool for building and strengthening your core, which is an important way to raise your general fitness. 

An important study by theUniversity of San Diego showed that the captain’s chair was one of the most effective ways to build strong and solid abs. The study compared thirteen of the most common abdominal exercises, some that involved equipment, and ranked them from most to least effective. 

Each of the thirteen exercises in the study were ranked for muscle stimulation in the rectus abdominus and the obliques. Overall, the top three abdominal exercises were the bicycle maneuver, the captain’s chair, and doing crunches on an exercise ball. These findings were all verified by the American Council on Exercise.

Some Common Captain’s Chair Exercise Mistakes 

Now that you know more about this machine, you’ll need to perfect your form as you get started with some exercises. There are a few common mistakes that you can avoid while doing your exercises. Firstly, don’t use any of your body momentum to raise your legs. This is the most common mistake and it really defeats the point of doing the exercise. Always avoid this and tighten your core to use your abs rather than your legs. 

Also, be sure to fully engage your core by following the earlier advice we mentioned before you even start to lift your legs. Engaging your core will go a long way toward protecting you from a wide range of possible injuries while really helping you get the most possible benefits out of all of your reps.

Another way to prevent injuries is to never arch your back or let your back sag. When faced with the pressure of raising your legs, some people arch their back against the backrest. Avoid doing this so that you are actively engaging your core. Make sure your lower back remains as tight as possible so as to guarantee the best type of stretch for optimal back support. 

Finally, make sure you are breathing properly. A lot of people tend to hold their breath as they lift so that they can focus on engaging their core. This can actually make the exercise harder than it should be. As with any exercise, your muscles need a lot of oxygen to perform, so always regulate your breathing in time with your lifts.

Core Strength Training  

 

All of the ab exercises, whether they are done on a captain’s chair or if you prefer to focus on cable crunches or other techniques, can really help you manage and sometimes even prevent  a wide variety of health problems.

Doing ab exercises like cable crunches regularly can lead to far higher levels of overall health.

Your core has sometimes been considered the basis for all of your weightlifting strength. When you do a lot of ab exercises, your lower body and your core muscles are sure to get a lot stronger. Your abdominals and lower abs, along with your obliques and deep core muscles like the transverse abdominis are very important ones when it comes to so many of these core exercises.

With sit-ups as well as with a lot of these exercises, you will find the tension in your deep inner-core muscles becoming very intense. Although there are a few weightlifters who train their abs mostly with crunches, the main jobs for your core should always be focused on antiextension and antiflexion, some of the key goals when it comes to engaging your core.

Start Exercising!

Start with some basic ab exercises and you will quickly progress to more challenging exercises as your core strength builds. Some people do a dedicated abs day and these exercises can be an excellent addition to that day’s workout routine. You can also move these exercises into your other workout days if you want to give your core a good burn more regularly.

It has been shown that following a high protein diet can really increase your metabolism and give you more energy to put into your workout routine.

An increase in dietary protein intake can be metabolically advantageous, mainly for overweight and obese adults attempting weight loss. With all other things being equal, more protein is beneficial for lean body mass retention and for generating greater fat loss. If you are trying to reduce your body weight and burn that fat, the  Veg Shred Stack can help.

Experience the result of burning fat continuously while you gain lean muscle in your abs. Fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to build and repair lean muscle while improving your metabolism with the most powerful thermogenic on the market.