What are the Best Exercises & Exercise Equipment for Core Strength?
Having strong abdominal and surrounding muscles is the key to unlocking a range of fitness goals. Our team at Akfit has been helping customers achieve their fitness goals for more than two decades.
Questions about core strength have been a firm favorite throughout. In this article, we are sharing some of our secrets for successful core workouts, with or without equipment.
In this article …
What is Core Strength?
When it comes to core strength, most people will think of ripped abdominal muscles forming a six-pack. Whilst this may be a fitness goal in itself, it’s really only scratching the surface of true core strength.
Our core is a group of muscles connecting the upper and lower body. Because of their position, they are involved in almost every single movement of our bodies, even as you are sitting at a desk reading this article right now.
The outer layer of abdominal muscles (abs) that creates the effect of a six-pack is only one part of our core muscles. The muscles allowing you to stand up, sit down or pick something up from the floor are the much less visible deep or inner abdominals, also known as the transverse abdominis. They wrap around your sides and spine. These muscles work together with the obliques on the side of your abdomen and the muscles of the pelvic floor.
Another important part of your invisible core muscles is called the multifidus. This is a long, deep muscle running along your spine. Together with the inner abs, this muscle stabilizes your spine and aids almost every movement you make. As a result, core strength as a fitness goal is about strengthening all of these deep abdominal and back muscles. A six-pack is just a happy side effect.
Why is Core Strength Important?
Core strength is important because it supports the body’s overall balance and stability. When you are exercising, this prevents falls and other injuries. However, there are more benefits to building a strong core:
- Good posture and confidence: strong core muscles contribute to your posture and help prevent slouching. You will immediately appear more confident, whilst at the same time lessening wear and tear on your spine.
- Prevent lower back pain: most adults, whether they are into keeping fit or not, experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. Statistics show that in Canada four out of five adults are affected. Having a strong, stable core helps you move better and protect your back.
- Increased strength: no matter what sports you love, a strong core provides the power your body needs to perform in almost all of them. Golfing, biking, baseball, watersports, hockey – anything involving your body twisting, bending, reaching, or striking is powered by strong core muscles.
Because of their central position within our bodies, weak core muscles are detrimental to arm and leg function. They become the weak link letting the rest of the body down. Any move you make will only ever be as powerful as the weakest muscle involved in it.
How to Build Your Core Strength
Because different combinations of your core muscles are involved in almost every single movement you make, you have plenty of choice when it comes to strengthening them. There is no real need for exercises targeting one muscle specifically. In fact, exercises involving more than one core muscle will help you increase core strength in a balanced way.
Variety also extends to your choice of working out with or without machines. The good news is, either way works. We believe that a combination of both bodyweight exercises and equipment-led training is the best option to keep your training interesting and achieve your goal.
Here are some of the best bodyweight exercises we know, plus our three favorite core strengthening machines.
There is almost no limit to the repertoire of bodyweight exercises that help you increase your core strength. Here are some of our favorite and most effective picks:
1. Stationary and Dynamic Planks
Never underestimate the humble plank. Simply staying in this position activates your core muscles. If you are new to planks, start by resting your forearms on the floor with your elbows directly under your shoulders. Step it up into a high plank by straightening your arms and keeping your hands under your shoulders. You can also move between the two.
For a dynamic variation, try touching your left elbow with your right knee. Initially, this will be harder than you think. Once you have mastered the movement, slow it down to strengthen your core even more.
2. High Boat and Low Boat
This exercise looks easier than it feels. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs bent. Lift your legs until they form a 45-degree angle with your body. At this stage, your core is providing all of your stability. Hold for a few breaths.
To move back to a low boat position, straighten and lower your legs towards the floor. At the same time, lower your upper body. Don’t lie down, though. Hold this position for one breath, before engaging your core to move back to high boat. Slowly increase repetitions as you gain strength.
This is a great exercise once you have developed some core strength already and are looking to challenge yourself.
Start by lying on the floor with straight legs and your arms extended above your head. Keep your arms close to your ears. Point your toes, squeeze your thighs and glutes and then lift your legs and your upper body off the ground all at the same time. Your arms are trying to reach your feet.
Return to your starting position slowly, controlling the position of your back with your core muscles.
Don’t be discouraged if you can only manage a handful of repetitions initially. Each practice will strengthen your core, and the number of repetitions you can complete will increase naturally.
Exercising with Machines
If you prefer exercise gadgets and machines over bodyweight exercises, you’re not alone. Quite a few of our team members love them, too. All three of the options we’ve chosen lend themselves to a variety of exercises.
This is what sets them apart from the likes of ab-wheels, medicine balls, and ab-crunch benches, which are only suited to one or two exercises.
Our chosen options allow you to start even if you are not very strong now and progress with you as your core develops. Because all three offer plenty of exercise options, you will never be stuck for inspiration either.
1. The TRX Sweat System
The TRX system is one of the most versatile pieces of kit for overall core strength training and functional exercise. It works indoors and outdoors, so you can change your workout location as you wish, and it’s ultra-portable, too.
Setting up is straightforward and should only take a minute or so. The system comes with a selection of anchors and accessories as well as a workout poster to get you started. When you buy your TRX Sweat System, you automatically receive a subscription to the TRX fitness app which gives you access to over 200 workouts.
Kettlebells require no introduction. They are well-known as an excellent all-around general conditioning tool.
The key to getting the most out of your kettlebell workout is to choose the right weight of kettlebell. The stronger you are, the more weight you may want to use. If you are only just starting to use kettlebells, choose a weight that is just on the edge of your comfort zone. It needs to be heavy enough to challenge you but light enough to allow for several repetitions.
Kettlebells may not seem like the most obvious piece of equipment for core strength training. However, most kettlebell exercises target a combination of muscles or muscle compounds. Take the kettlebell swing, for example, your hamstrings and glutes are driving the swing. But your core muscles have to engage throughout the movement to keep your upper body stable. Without them, you couldn’t control the weight of the equipment.
Apart from choosing the correct weight for your first kettlebell, you need to pick a material. At Akfit, we currently offer cast-iron, vinyl-coated, and urethane-coated bells. Choosing between those really comes down to personal preference as the different styles don’t have a huge impact on performance. Saying that cast-iron models are our bestsellers.
3. The Lebert Equalizer
Lebert Equalizers are one of the simplest and most versatile pieces of fitness equipment you could invest in. The bars allow you to train your core but also work arms, chest, and back muscles.
As you gain more strength, you can adjust the height of the equipment to make your body work harder or simply add more repetitions. Like the TRX system, the equalizer lets you pick and choose exercises creatively, so there is no chance of boredom.
No matter whether you prefer bodyweight exercises or prefer owning your personal fitness equipment, core strength is simply too important to overlook. Strengthening your core muscles will improve any other exercise you do or sport you participate in.
To find out more about integrating equipment into your fitness routine, get in touch with our team today. We’re happy to schedule a virtual meeting to chat about your needs, or you can visit our store in Sudbury. Our team is here for you from Monday to Saturday, and we enjoy nothing more than figuring out how to help you achieve your fitness goals.