Health & Fitness

My Pregnancy Pantry | Strong to the Core

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When talking about strength training, the core muscles are the most important to human function and performance, mainly because all movement stems from the core. Anatomically speaking, the core is the area around your trunk and pelvis

So I had my baby and now it’s time to get my abs back in shape. Many of you will probably think it’s time for crunches. Right? Well, actually no. Fitness and exercise after pregnancy is a lot more complicated than that. In fact, starting with exercises like crunches may actually do more harm than good.

Strong core muscles make it easier to do most physical activities, from running a marathon to swinging a golf club to getting a glass off a top shelf or bending down to tie your shoes. Weak core muscles leave you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries.

The best part about strengthening the core is that it doesn’t take specialised equipment or fancy exercises. Any exercise that uses the trunk of your body without additional support will strengthen the core muscles. Squats, push-ups and abdominal crunches are examples of some of these exercises.

Exercise for the core

An efficient way to strengthen core muscles is to involve them in each and every strength training exercise you perform. Using body weight as the primary resistance is an effective way to incorporate core strengthening. When performed correctly, it also strengthens the small muscle groups around the joints.

Too frequently people are straining their lower back due to weaknesses in the core. Even experienced heavyweight lifters incorporate body weight exercises in their workouts to add variety. An example would be performing a set of push-ups versus bench press because it utilises the core muscles to stabilise the trunk in a plank position versus being supported on a bench.

Using equipment such as a Swiss ball is a perfect way to enhance core strengthening even more. It requires the use of balance and core stabilization to keep your center of gravity in place. Performing pushups or planks with the Swiss ball will challenge the core muscles more because it’s an unstable surface. It is important to begin at a level appropriate for your strength but be sure to allow yourself to progress when needed.

It’s never too late to correct a problem

Don’t panic if you’ve had a baby in the last year (or even longer) or you’re an athlete who has been consistently ‘crunching’ your external abdominals. It’s never too late to retrain your abs from the inside out. With the right exercises in the right order, you can teach yourself this important skill and make significant improvements in the shape of your abdomen that will take inches off your waistline or even improve your performance in your specific sport.

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