This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard that strengthening your core is, well, at the core of all fitness. Having core strength is not only vital when doing ab exercises, but also to have good posture, avoid lower back pain, and improve your entire gym experience.
Without a strong core, your exercise routine will have you overcorrecting with other muscle groups — and possibly doing more harm than good (for example, if you find your lower back arching when you’re doing a push-up).
“Once you have stable posture and active stabilizer muscles, all the other movements you do, like squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, etc are already cued up with stability and core strength,” explains Logan Dube, the Director of Education at Steve Nash Fitness World. “That’s why we like using them in warm-up.”
Whether your goal is to get a six-pack for the summer, to set a strong core foundation, or to alleviate your lower back pain, pursuing a rock-solid core is something your body will thank you for. We asked Logan to share their five top core and ab exercises to get us there.
How To: For a five-step routine to work out all areas of your abs, Logan suggests starting with the Dead Bug exercise. Lay flat on your back and doing reps where you lift each leg and the opposite arm at the same time.
“My recommendation, and what we teach students and trainers in our certification programs, is that core muscles are all about stability. If you think of your pelvis, spine and rib cage/shoulders, it’s really important that the muscles around and attached to those bones can give you stability,” Logan explains.
How To: Next up is the Hip Bridge, where you hold your arms on the floor and have your feet planted at an angle while keeping your core elevated.
There’s more to core-strengthening exercises than meets the eye. Logan says, “These exercises are crucial because of how the different core muscles are layered and what their specific jobs are. In all five of these exercises, you keep your pelvis, spine and rib cage stacked and braced so movement, if any, happens at the hip joint (like in the Hip Bridge).”
How To: The Side Plank is one of the hardest core exercises, but it definitely pays off. Do this one by balancing on the edges of your feet while keeping your torso off the ground.
Logan also stresses that although having a six-pack is top of people’s mind, strengthening your core is a crucial foundation.
“We incorporate core activation exercises into the warm-up of all workouts. You could use similar exercises in a stand-alone workout, especially if you prefer shorter workouts more days per week. Especially for beginners, it’s important to be able to do these exercises properly before moving onto those six-pack exercises!”
How To: The Plank involves you lying on the ground, keeping your back straight, and staying elevated on your elbows.
Logan says that each of these workouts activate different layers of the abs. “Muscles like the transverse abdominus help set and brace the position of your pelvis and spine ensuring that you don’t injure your back.”
In the second layer, Logan explains that “internal and external obliques help brace but they also create and resist rotation.” The third layer is more superficial, and is effectively what gives you a six-pack.
How To: The Bird Dog exercise has you alternating pressure on your knee and opposite arm, staying balanced while keeping your core strong.
“People with low back pain are often weak in one or all of these five movements. And learning to do these and slowly building up endurance really helps reduce and even eliminate back pain,” says Logan.
Logan is just one of the experts you may meet at Steve Nash Fitness World and Sports Club, BC’s largest fitness provider. The gym has over 24 clubs and each year, and through its Success Stories campaign, recognizes a member who (often with the help of a personal trainer) has used exercises like those recommended above to transform their life.
Jason was out of shape from spending long hours at a desk, so his trainer at Steve Nash Fitness World started by coaching foundational movements: squats, lunges, push and pull exercises. Since joining, he’s improved his performance in sports and made great progress towards his weight loss goals.
A different client, Karen, was able to make a remarkable recovery after a freak accident that left her with a broken hip. After getting back in the gym within a month of the surgery, her trainer gave her hope that she could get back to her previous state. Karen benefitted from learning appropriate variations of the foundational movements like squats, lunges, deadlifts, and push-ups so that she could train safely and build her confidence. “It didn’t take too long until she was doing exercises she never imagined being able to do!” says her personal trainer, Daniel.
Can’t wait to strengthen your core? Find your closest Steve Nash Fitness World and Sports Club location so you can get started today!