Hi friends! You know I’ve given you lots of tips about how to build core strength over the years. I’ve shown you ways to upgrade your core workout routine, and reasons to embrace the plank exercise. But perhaps you’ve wondered what the hype is regarding core strength, and why you should care about it. Today, I’m gonna explain it and provide modifications for some common core exercises!
What is Core Strength Training?
Core strength training involves exercises that specifically target your core. Your core is comprised of several muscle groups including the pelvic floor, the diaphragm, the multifidus, obliques, rectus abdominis, and transversus abdominis muscles. The best part of core strength training is that many exercises target other muscle groups in addition to your core. So if you’re a multi-tasker like me, when you invest in core strength training, you’ll be getting a lot of bang for your buck!
How to Build Core Strength
Fitness formats such as HIIT classes are a great opportunity to build core strength. Here’s why: during a HIIT class, you’ll do exercises like burpees, planks, and push-ups. Each of those exercises engages your entire body. You have to utilize your upper body and lower body to get into and out of the movement. Plus, your core stabilizes you throughout the movement. That is also the definition of a compound exercise–an exercise that utilizes multiple muscle groups at the same time. Compound exercises help you use your workout time more efficiently because you engage many muscle groups at the same time, burn more calories, raise your heart rate, improve your coordination, and build strength.
Here are some other common questions related to building core strength:
Building a strong core helps to: improve your posture, balance, and flexibility; reduce lower back pain, and reduce the possibility of injury. A strong core also helps to improve your athletic performance!
Planks are great exercises for building core strength. There are a plethora of variations, progressions, and modifications for most planks too. In addition, hollow holds, push-ups, burpees, glute bridges, bird dogs, crunch variations, exercises in prone position, and lunge variations are also good core strength exercises.
As you get older, it’s even more important to build core strength. The stronger your core, the better your balance will be, and that can help to reduce falls and injuries. It will also help you feel more stable throughout your body and supported through your lower back.
Modifications for Core Exercises
Core exercises can be extremely challenging, so it’s crucial to know what modifications are available to you so that you perform the exercise effectively and safely. I’ve created a list of common core exercises plus some modifications for each of them:
In the traditional exercise, you’re on your back with your hands behind your head, legs extended. Then, bring one elbow towards the opposite bent knee (meeting in the middle). The other leg remains long. Here’s the modification: keep your upper body on the mat as you focus on the lower body. Alternate knee drives into the chest while keeping your lower back pressed into the mat.
2. Star Crunches
In the traditional exercise, you’re on your back with your arms (above your head) and legs extended on the floor. Open your arms and legs to a “V” to form a star position with your body. Reach one hand to tap the opposite foot (meeting in the middle), while keeping that arm and leg lengthened. You’ll keep the opposite forearm on the ground as you tap the hand to the opposite foot. Here’s how to modify the exercise: instead of keeping your legs straight, bend the knee. The hand will tap the opposite knee (instead of the foot).
3. Boat Pose
In the traditional exercise, you’re sitting in a “V-sit” position (torso hinged backward from the hips, and legs are in a tabletop position). Extend the legs as you hinge back from the hips. Here’s the modification: Hold onto the back of your thighs during the movement. As another option, you can place your hands on the floor, slightly behind your hips as you complete the movement.
4. Bird Dog
In the traditional exercise, you are in a straight arm plank position with your wrists underneath your shoulders, and feet a little wider than your hips. You begin the movement by extending one arm out in front of you as you lift the opposite leg behind you. Complete the movement by coming back to your start position, then repeating on the other side. Here’s how to modify this exercise: Start in a quadruped position (wrists underneath your shoulders while knees are bent underneath your hips). Begin the movement by extending one arm out in front of you as you lift the opposite leg behind you. Complete the movement by coming back to your start position, then repeating on the other side.
In the traditional exercise, you’re on your back with both legs long towards the sky, and arms long beside your body. Begin the movement by lowering one leg towards the floor, then reach both hands towards the calf of the other leg. Raise your head, neck, and shoulders as you reach and hold the calf. Scissor the legs to switch sides. Here’s how to modify this exercise: Keep your lower body on the mat as you scissor the legs and keep your lower back pressed into the mat.
If you’re more of a visual person (like me!), check out the video below to see me demonstrate these modifications:
As you can see, there are lots of ways to modify many core exercises. The best thing about these modifications is that you can try a few reps using the traditional exercise, then smoothly transition into the modification if/when you need to. This is a great way to build core strength and you’ll definitely see your progression as you’re able to do more reps of the traditional exercise!
If you enjoy these modification tips, I definitely want to encourage you to workout with me at wellnesswithwendytraylor.com! I have on-demand HIIT classes, barre fusion classes, and stretching classes available right now. All you have to do is press the play button! I also offer modifications for many exercises, which means they are accessible to most people. So, if you’re just starting out, or if you’ve been working out for some time, I’ve got you covered! And here’s the best news: new subscribers get their first 7 days FREE! So what do you have to lose? Hit the button below and join me today at wellnesswithwendytraylor.com. I can’t wait to workout with you!
Mrs. Traylor is a Fitness Instructor, NASM Certified Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach, AFPA Certified Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness Specialist, wife, and momma who provides actionable advice for positive lifestyle changes with fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Read about Wendy’s inspiring entrepreneurial journey, and subscribe to Wendy’s newsletter here!