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How to Build a Strong Core

By Rachael Attard, Updated Sep 19, 2021
How to build a strong core

Having a strong core is important for so many different parts of your life! Yes, your abs will look great, but you’ll also feel more confident doing everyday tasks and fitness activities.

Building a strong core can take time and consistency, but the results are worth it. :)

What Are Core Muscles?

When we talk about the core, a lot of people automatically picture their abs. Although your abdominal muscles are part of your core, your core is a lot more than just your abs. Your core muscles are made up of several different groups. They all play a role in supporting your body as it moves and functions.

Muscles and Muscle Groups That Make Up the Core

  • Rectus abdominis: This muscle is on the front of your body. Some people call this muscle the “six-pack muscle,” and it connects from the lower ribs to the front of the pelvis. In addition to stabilising the body, the muscle also helps bend your body forward. For example, you use the muscle when you perform a crunch.
  • Transversus abdominis: This muscle also helps stabilise your body when you move. It tightens when you move, supporting your spine. It’s the deepest abdominal muscle, and it connects from the lower spine under the ribs to the rectus abdominis.
  • Diaphragm: You use this muscle for breathing. It connects to the lower ribs.
  • Obliques: Both the internal and external obliques help your body rotate, bend at the side, and keep your body stable when you’re upright. These muscles are on the sides of your body, and they connect from your ribs down to your pelvis.
  • Pelvic floor: These muscles connect to the underside of your pelvis, and they help support your internal organs in this area, including your bladder, rectum, and uterus. They help control urinary and bowel movements, and they affect sexual intercourse for women.
  • Back extensors: These muscles attach from the spine to the pelvis, and they include the erector spinae muscles, quadratus lumborum, and multifidi. This group of muscles is responsible for supporting your spine when you’re bending or lifting objects. You use these muscles when you do squats or do bicep curls.
  • Hip flexors: These connect from the spine to the inside of the pelvis, and they include the psoas and iliacus muscles. Hip flexors help you raise your legs up and bring them toward your torso.

Some people find it helpful to think of their core as a box. The box includes the diaphragm on the top, pelvic floor and hip muscles on the bottom, ab muscles up front, and lower back and glute muscles on the back.

RELATED POST: Upper Body and Core Workout to Sculpt and Tone

core muscle function

Why Is a Strong Core Important?

Building a strong core is important to developing a healthy, strong body overall. Forgetting about core muscles can lead to injury when working out or when doing everyday tasks, such as lifting a child or gardening.

In fact, doing a lot of strength training without building a strong core can lead to improper movements and imbalances throughout the body. Exercising throughout the body is important, but you shouldn’t skip your core!

Benefits of Building a Strong Core

Here are a few of the ways strengthening the core can benefit your overall wellbeing and fitness:

  • Strong core muscles will lead to improved balance and stability. This will benefit you in all areas of life, including chores at home, tasks at work, exercises, sports for fun, and caring for children. Even sitting with good posture at a desk requires a stable, balanced core!
  • Because a strong core leads to better balance and stability, it can help prevent falls. This is good for people of all ages, but it is especially important for adults as they age.
  • Having a strong core can help you perform exercises correctly when you work out. Neglecting this can lead you to over-rely on your arms, legs, or other parts of your body for movement. Over time, this can cause injury and joint pain.
  • A strong core, especially a strong pelvic floor, is important for women’s sexual and urinary health.
  • A strong core can reduce back pain and prevent future health problems. Weak core muscles can lead to poor posture and muscle injuries, and strengthening these muscles protects your back from future problems. People who struggle with lower back pain often do core exercises (typically under the guidance of a physical therapist) at home to improve their pain.

RELATED POST: Lower Ab Workout

build a strong core

Wanting a strong core for the aesthetics is OK too. There’s no harm in wanting nicely defined abs! However, remember not to focus on your abs while neglecting the rest of your core. Doing this can lead to an unbalanced core, which can cause back problems, poor balance, and a lack of stability.

How to Build a Strong Core

Building a strong core means doing exercises that strengthen all parts of your core, not just your abs. This means you need to do exercises that target the entire “core box” — your abs, lower back and glute, diaphragm, and pelvic floor.

In fact, you should be careful that, when trying to strengthen your core, you’re not causing it more harm. Some traditional ab moves, such as crunches and sit ups, put a lot of pressure on the spine and require a lot of spine movement. If you have spine problems, consider avoiding doing moves like these. If you choose to do them, be careful, and remember to do exercises that work other parts of your core too.

When doing core exercises, don’t rush through them, as this can also lead to jerky spinal movements. Instead, focus on going slowly with the correct posture. Sometimes rushing through movements doesn’t give you the core workout you need.

RELATED POST: Tight Core Workout for Women

Best Exercises for Building a Strong Core

There are many different ways to improve your core strength. These are some of my favorite and the most common core exercises.

BRIDGE

Bridge exercises activate your glutes and lower back. They are good for beginners and for more advanced athletes.

To make this exercise more challenging, try incorporating a march into the bridge.

CRUNCH

Although crunches can put pressure on the spine, you can do them carefully. If you have back or neck pain, consider avoiding crunches completely.

Some people like to roll a towel or blanket and put that behind their back when they are doing crunches or sit-ups. This helps support your back, and it forces your body to use your ab, not hip, muscles to complete the move.

PLANK

Planks are an excellent workout for your entire body. They primarily target your entire core, but they also can benefit your arms, upper back, and legs.

If you aren’t strong enough to do a full plank, that’s OK. Start on your knees, and focus on contracting your muscles and keeping them tight as you breathe deeply through the exercise.

BIRD DOG

I love bird dogs for strengthening the core because this move targets both your abs and your back. It also forces you to use balance and keep your body stable, so it can help improve your coordination.

MOUNTAIN CLIMBER

Mountain climbers add knee movements to the plank pose, so they are another excellent core movement. They also require balance, and they can help improve general stability throughout your body.

SIDE PLANK WITH ROTATION

Doing a side plank with a rotation will help strengthen your arms, shoulders, and obliques. The obliques can be hard to target and many people forget to focus on them.

If you aren’t strong enough to do a side plank with a rotation, start with just a side plank. Remember to breathe throughout the exercise!

LEG LIFT

Leg lifts work your abs and lower back. As you do this exercise, try to keep your back against the floor and keep your abs tight. This will make the exercise most effective.

TOE TOUCH

This move works your abs and obliques. Remember to keep your lower back against the floor.

If you struggle to complete this exercise, try raising just one leg at a time. You can also prop your legs against a wall if you need extra support.

DEADBUG

The deadbug exercise works several muscles in your core, including your erector spinae, obliques, rectus abdominis, and transverse abdominis.

TOE TAPS

This is a basic Pilates exercise that is excellent to do if you want a low-impact, back-friendly move. They can be a great alternative to crunches, especially if you have back problems.

This move works your abs, lower back, hips, glutes, and legs.

RELATED POST: Ab Workout

Best Videos for Strong Core and Abs

Here are five of my most popular core workout videos which you can find on my Youtube channel. :)

Tight Core Workout

Lower Ab Workout – No Gym Required

Favourite Ab Workout – Core Workout for Women

Oblique Ab Workout

15 Minute HIIT Ab Workout

My new G.A.L. program is also great for your core, as it not only helps you sculpt your legs and shape your booty, but also helps you tone your abs!

If you have any questions about building core strength, let me know in the comments. :)

Love Rachael Xx

Picture of Rachael

Rachael is an Australian born certified personal trainer and nutritionist who holds a Bachelor degree in Science.

After struggling for years to find an exercise and diet program that is tailored to women striving for lean and toned body with no bulk she designed her Lean Legs Program. This program is tailored to each body type and focused on helping women get toned but feminine bodies, without getting bulky.

Her mission is to empower women and help them stay in shape in a healthy and balanced way.

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2 comments on “How to Build a Strong Core”

    Katie says:

    This is one of the best posts about core strengthing. I read alot about this but no one would explain it properly, but Rachael’s blog was si easy to understand
    Thx Rachael

      Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,

      We’re so glad to know that you were able to learn a lot from Rachael’s blog post. If you need more help or tips, feel free to reach out to us at info@rachaelattard.com