There is good reason your stomach area defines your “core,” literally and figuratively (pun intended). Clinically known as the solar plexus region, the core is a vital area of your body. The health of the core decides the health of the rest of your body, and impacts the quality of your entire life!
When you have a strong core, it is not just food that you digest easily, but you also digest life that much better. Your perception of yourself and your response to your environment, especially during challenging times can depend on the health of your core.
For women, this is more so when combined with their intuitive abilities. If you have a weak core, it can all go wrong. When you get nervous, it is your gut that first wakes you up by working as the internal alarm, as you feel queasy in your stomach. If you have ever been fired from a job or you believe you are going to get into trouble because you did something undignified, then you will have this feeling. If you ever made a mistake on the road and caused an accident, this feeling will manifest itself in your gut.
Here are three very doable and very effective exercises to restore and strengthen your core.
The Simple Belly-Hold
This is one core exercise that needs very little space. It is so easy to practice that you can do this sitting at your desk at work. Or even when you are chopping veggies at home. Or when you are binge-watching TV on the weekend. Or pretty much anyplace, anytime!
The instructions are perfectly straightforward: pull your belly in and up. And that is all there is to this can-fix-all exercise!
Don’t let its simplicity fool you, as its effects are profound. The intent is to pull your belly region towards your heart region (sort of like trying to fit into tight leather pants). This doesn’t just touch your outward (read superficial) abdominal muscles, but the very core of your core! It goes deep and is therefore that much more impactful.
It especially works on the “transverse” abdominal muscles (also called transverse abdominis or TVA), which are responsible for maintaining the strength of your back, and the agility of your arms and limbs. If you look closer, you will see how these extraordinary muscles come into play in almost all of our movements. Therefore, it makes more sense to work directly on these muscles to strengthen our core, than build on superficial, outer muscles. Thus the name: belly-hold.
Yoga practitioners will also have plenty to cheer. This simple exercise is emulative of almost every breathing exercise in yoga. With every deep exhale, we powerfully push our belly in and up, targeting not the six-pack area (and this is a good thing), but the lower, core abdomen. Most breathing exercises are centered on this movement, as our exhalation helps to push all toxins out, belly up.
For newbies, it is best to lie down when you begin this exercise. Keep your back flat on the floor and place your hands on your hip bones. This will make you more sensitive to the belly movement. Now inhale, and as you slowly exhale, push your belly in and up, and hold for 4-5 seconds (You can gradually increase up to 10 seconds).
You should feel tiny contractions in your belly area. This is great because it means that all toxins are being forcefully thrown out. Now release and repeat 4 more times, to make 1 set. You can begin with 1 set, and move up to 4-5 sets. In a very short time, you will begin to enjoy a flatter belly, strong abs and a powerful core that supports you to get the best out of life!
This immensely popular exercise builds on the belly hold. It is often misunderstood to be “tough,” but this is only so until your belly firms up a little. Here, you begin by lying on your stomach, as if preparing to perform push-ups. But don’t worry. Push-ups are the last item we are thinking of! Instead, bring your forearms forward so they can support you, and gently raise yourself from the top.
Here, most of your weight is balanced by your forearms, and your toes face the ground. Hold this posture for as long as you can (even 3 seconds will do wonders for your body). Then lower yourself, relax for 10 seconds and repeat. You can begin with as little as 3 repetitions, and move up to 20 repetitions for a strong core.
As you feel more confident, you can even execute the “high plank” which is an extension of the above. Here, you raise yourself even further up and balance on your palms (not forearms). This works well to strengthen and heal your back muscles. One tip for newcomers is to consciously exhale when you hold position, and inhale when you relax. This will align the exercise to your natural body movement and breath.
Fitness experts even suggest combining the high plank with weights for a more intensive abdomen workout. They also point us towards the region of our pelvis, as this is the first region to slack during the exercise. By keeping our pelvis area in check during the high plank, you are executing one heck of a gut strengthening workout!
The McGill Curl Up
Despite its fancy title, this is a relatively simple core-building exercise. And it can be performed with no stress on your back! So if you have been prone to back injuries in the past, you are better off choosing the curl up over the plank. The belly hold does not adversely affect your back and can be done by everyone.
Here, you lie flat on your back, with your knees bent. Then lower one knee forward, so your heel touches the ground, and place your arms below your hip bone to support yourself. This is the root posture. From here, gently raise yourself up from above the chest in a straight slant.
Keep your focus on the chin, as it is likely to jut forward, throwing your neck out of alignment with the rest of your back. When you are doing this right, it should seem like you have back support which is raising you up in a straight line from above the chest.
Fitness gurus recommend this as an excellent beginner’s exercise that can be easily done despite any lower back problems. It also works great to strengthen weak stomach muscles. You can begin with 5 repetitions, and work up to 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions for a gentle yet mighty effective workout to your core.
The Good News
If you are looking to build a firm belly and a strong core, you can gratefully skip the sit-ups and crunches! Gone are the days when these were believed to be the only good exercises to tone up the belly.
Well, thank God that myth has been broken by fitness experts several times over. An increasing number of fitness instructors now recommend against crunches, as it only targets the outward muscles, with a potential strain on the back. And if you’re recovering from pregnancy, your belly is likely to turn even worse!Related: Quick and Natural Ways to Burn Your Belly Fat
Thankfully, knowledge on women’s fitness has improved by leaps and bounds, so we can still exercise our abdominal area, without compromising other parts of our body. Now you can get ready to build that strong core you always wanted, which in turn will pave the way for superior health and quality of life!