Core Strengthening: 7 Benefits + Tips
August 18, 2021
Many of us think core strength is only about having six-pack abs or a flat belly. And although working at your core will definitely help you achieve those goals, there are so many reasons to strengthen your core that go far beyond how your tummy looks.
Your core is more than just your belly or abdominal muscles. It also includes your middle and lower back, pelvis, and hips. These muscles all work together to perform the incredibly important job of supporting your spine and skull.
Strengthening these muscles can improve your digestion, posture, breathing, balance, and even reduce back pain. Here’s a more in-depth look at the benefits of strengthening your core, plus some diet and exercise tips to help you strengthen this very important group of muscles.
The Benefits of Strengthening Your Core
The muscles that make up your core stabilize your whole body, providing your center of gravity when you’re moving and at rest. Without even realizing it, you use your core strength to walk, sit, stand, and for most other motions.
Since most of the motions of your body start in your core, strengthening these muscles can provide numerous benefits for your health. Here are the key benefits everyone should know about:
1. Better Posture
Proper core-strengthening exercises work the muscles throughout your hips and torso, from front to back, top to bottom, and side to side. This helps to realign your hips and allows you to stand tall and straight. Good posture is essential for reducing the risk of herniated discs and spinal degeneration.
2. Improved Breathing
Standing straight and tall also improves your breathing, so strengthening your core can be beneficial for anyone who suffers from breathing issues. Improving your balance and posture opens up your airway, making it much easier to exhale and inhale.
3. Better Balance
Poor balance can be attributed to a number of things, including neurological issues, vestibular dysfunction, and lower body weakness. Strengthening the core improves dynamic balance, whether you’re a child or a senior adult.
4. Improved Athletic Performance
Having a strong core is essential for almost any sport or type of exercise you might enjoy. For example, if you love to run, a stronger core will help you maintain good form and keep your legs from tiring quickly. If you’re into paddle sports, a strong core will help you pull faster and harder for a longer period.
Baseball players get their batting, pitching, and running strength from their core. Golfers, tennis players, weightlifters, swimmers… you name it. Every athlete will see an improved performance with a stronger core.
5. Lower Risk of Injury
Many daily tasks rely on a strong core, from carrying groceries and young children to walking up the stairs or keeping your balance on an icy sidewalk. If your core muscles are weak, you’re much more likely to injure yourself performing everyday movements.
A strong core gives you better control of your muscles and makes it easier to find your center of gravity if you misstep, slip, or lose your balance. Having a strong core that you can rely on for lifting also makes it less likely that you’ll strain the muscles in your legs, back, hips, or shoulders.
6. Reduced Back Pain
Weak core muscles lead to an increased risk of back pain and injury because they lack the strength to support the spine properly. Engaging in core strengthening exercises can help to strengthen these muscles and may reduce the discomfort of both chronic and acute pain in the mid and lower back. It can also improve spinal mobility and flexibility.
7. Improved Digestion
After you chew up and swallow your food, it travels to your stomach and intestines where it is digested, and usable nutrients are absorbed. Although you cannot consciously control this process, unconscious muscular tension and weakness in these areas can still affect your digestive process.
Your gastric muscles churn your food, and your stomach muscles expand and contract as they push on your diaphragm, moving food into the intestines. The intestines are basically smooth muscle tubes that use wave-like contractions to move food along the digestive tract.
And finally, your digestive system is enclosed by the abdominal muscles and internal and external obliques, which further compress the stomach and intestines to aid digestion and elimination. If these muscles are weak, digestion and elimination will be sluggish, resulting in bloating, stomach aches, and poor nutrient absorption.
Strengthening your core muscles and improving your posture make the digestive process more efficient. This can play a key role in everything from energy levels and immune health to metabolism and maintaining a healthy weight.
The Best Diet for Strengthening Your Core
Improving your diet is a great place to start when it comes to building core strength. A whole-food, plant-centric diet that includes plenty of veggies, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein will provide valuable nutrition and antioxidants, in addition to being low in calories.
The protein from starting a plant-based diet is much easier to digest than animal-based protein, too. This will cause less bloating while supplying fiber and support overall weight loss and fat burning, which results in a stronger core and better muscle tone.
Stay away from refined sugars and carbohydrates, which can contribute to belly fat and stall your progress. Alcohol should only be consumed in moderation because it can also contribute to increased belly fat.
The Best Exercises for Building Core Strength
Strengthening the core is different from other types of strength training because it requires you to work multiple muscle groups at the same time, rather than isolate a single area. The best core strengthening exercises require integrated, coordinated movements that engage your entire body.
Yoga is fantastic for strengthening your core because the poses work multiple muscle groups in these areas. If you’re brand new to yoga, you might be surprised to find that your core muscles are a bit sore after your workout.
Some of the best poses for core strengthening include:
- Navasana (Boat Pose)
- Marjaryasana (Cat Pose)
- Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
- Phalakasana (Plank Pose)
- Ardha Pincha Mayurasana (Dolphin Pose)
If you’re looking to incorporate some cardio into your core strengthening workouts, swimming, cycling, and rowing are fantastic options.
Wrapping Things Up
A strong core can also translate into improved overall health, fewer aches and pains, and a lower risk of injury in all areas of your life. Three 10–15-minute core strengthening workouts every week is all you need to see improvements in how you look, move, and feel throughout your day. Uptown Yoga Online has many mini-core workout videos available. Want some in-person motivation? Take our Strictly Core classes at our Dallas and Austin Ranch yoga studios. They are the perfect compliment to a vinyasa yoga practice.