The Benefits of a Strong Core
It’s the secret to your success, both in sport and in life.
Words By Alyssa Sybertz
So what are abs good for, anyway? If you think your core muscles are isolated to your midsection and are only relevant for cosmetic reasons, we’re here to help debunk those myths! The benefits of a strong core go far beyond the aesthetic—in fact, they extend to all areas of your workouts and your daily life.
Due to their location in the center of your body, strong core muscles help facilitate safe and efficient movement, which makes exercise feel easier, supports proper form and allows for maximum calorie burn. Take cycling, for example. “Having a strong core definitely helps with cycling, especially when you come out of the saddle,” says Peloton cycling instructor Emma Lovewell. “If you have a strong core, your pedal strokes and movement will be smoother, using less energy than someone with a less strong core who might be moving around a lot and wasting energy.” Toned, strong abdominals also improve balance and stability, which can help you jog out of the saddle, run faster, lift more weight and complete more challenging, higher impact exercises.
The added stability that comes with a strong core also plays a huge role in preventing injury and easing pain, especially in the back. “Your core is not just the front of your body, but it also includes your lower back,” notes Lovewell. “When you strengthen your whole core it greatly helps with injury prevention. Your core supports your spine, so having strong abdominal muscles takes the pressure off of your back.” And the benefits are impressive: A study in the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation found that chronic back pain sufferers who completed core exercises three times per week saw a 92% decrease in pain after six weeks.
“Having a strong core may also improve your ability to do day-to-day movements,” adds Lovewell. Indeed, just as strong abs can help you row, deadlift, sprint or balance in tree pose, they will also support you as you lift and put away groceries, carry children and work in the garden, making these activities easier and reducing end-of-day aches. In a study in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, subjects who did core-strengthening exercise three times per week for four weeks saw a 35% improvement in all-around function.
To get started, try two of Lovewell’s favorite exercises: bird-dogs and bicycle crunches. “Bird-dogs are great because they are safe for almost all people, and they really focus on your stability in your deep core muscles, as well as your hips, pelvis, spine and shoulders,” she says. “Bicycle crunches are great because you get the spinal rotation bringing your opposite elbow to knee, it’s always good to move your body in all planes, and you can really feel the burn!” Need a demonstration? Check out Lovewell’s Crush Your Core program, available in the Peloton App.
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