It’s not uncommon to hear the words “engage your core!” during a fitness class. But, do you know what it means exactly, or how to do it? A Personal Trainer in Newcastle, Jasper Holmes, explains everything you need to know about your core and the three key exercises to engage it.
What Is Your Core?
Firstly, it is very important to understand what your core is. Our Personal Trainer in Newcastle, Jasper, commonly refers to it as the ‘trunk of the body’.
“Your core is necessary for all everyday movements, and holds and secures your spine and posterior chain as a whole,” Jasper says.
Looking at your core’s anatomy, your abdominal wall is made up of skin, fascia (connective tissue) and four pairs of flat, sheet-like muscles.
“These muscles are the transverse abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique and rectus abdominis (the “six pack” muscles). These four abdominal muscles create a corset-like girdle that wraps around to make up the trunk.”
“All four muscles can be properly strengthened with the correct exercises, and more importantly can improve several aspects of life including power, balance, strength, and stability.”
Three Exercises to Engage Your Core
We asked Jasper, our Personal Trainer from Newcastle to break down the most effective exercises for engaging the core. Each exercise has been categorised into three intensity levels: beginner, intermediate and expert.
Exercise One: The Plank
Everyone’s worst enemy! Our Personal Trainer in Newcastle understands how much the plank hurts, but reassures us that it is one of the most effective exercises to engage and strengthen your core.
“This simple manoeuvre is critical for core strength as it targets all four areas of the abdomen,” says Jasper.
For the correct form, get into the plank position with your face down, and your body weight resting on your forearms and toes. Jasper advises that your body should be in a straight line from your neck to your ankles and that your elbows beneath your shoulders.
“Hold this position for 30 seconds, gradually increasing the time as the muscle endurance becomes better,” says Jasper.
To take it one step further, our Personal Trainer in Newcastle suggests reducing your base of support.
“From the basic plank position lift one leg or arm at a time, extending it in front or out the back of the body.”
Make sure to maintain the correct form, and hold this position for 30 seconds on each side.
Ready to really test your core strength? Jasper recommends this final variation of the plank.
“From a push-up position, lift one hand and raise it to your chest. Hold each hand on your chest for 30 seconds, and then follow with the same movement but in a constant motion for 10 chest taps (each side).”
Exercise Two: Side Plank
The trusty side-kick to the plank! This particular exercise will focus more on your internal and external obliques.
Start on the left side of your body with your legs straight and your right leg on top of your left.
“Position yourself so your weight rests on your left forearm and the outside edge of your left foot. Keep your left elbow beneath your shoulder.”
Our Personal Trainer in Newcastle advises that you lift your hips until your body is in a straight line from your neck to your ankles. Jasper also suggests imagining that your back is against a wall.
“Hold that position for 30 seconds and then switch sides, increasing the time held as the movement becomes easier and your abdomen becomes stronger.”
Much like the plank, Jasper suggests to reduce the base of support.
Once you’re in the side plank position, lift your top leg to form a V-shape. Try holding this for 20-seconds per side, and do at least two sets. You can extend the time as your strength develops.
“This is a big step up for the stabilisation of the core and you will definitely feel it in your adductors, being the outer-hip muscles,” Jasper says.
Our Personal Trainer in Newcastle says this move can be taken even further to create a deeper burn.
“Lift your bottom leg off the floor, bending your hip and knee so your bottom foot is near your top knee. Your whole body weight will rest on your forearm and the inside edge of your top foot.”
Not only will you feel this exercise in your core, but you will also feel it on the inside of your top leg as it is holding the majority of your body weight.
Exercise Three: Lying Down Leg Raises
A chance to relax on the floor? Our Personal Trainer in Newcastle thinks not! Lying down leg raises are the third and final exercise to help engage your core.
“Lie flat on your back with your legs stretched out in front of you, raising your legs to the ceiling with your hands underneath your glutes, and toes pointing above keeping your hips on the floor,” says Jasper.
Jasper recommends to slowly lower your legs to the ground and stop just before making contact with the floor.
“The slower the legs move, the more strain it puts on the abdominal muscles.”
To take this exercise to the next level, start in the same position, but with your hands to your side.
Once you are in position, raise your legs straight to the ceiling, and at the same time, raise your chin and torso towards your knees, stopping when your body is in a V-shape.
“We call these V-sit ups, and once again with just the leg raises, the slower and controlled the movement is the better the results,” Jasper says.
For the ultimate core workout, try Hanging Leg Raises. Our Personal Trainer from Newcastle warns us that these are quite a challenge.
“These are for advanced trainers only as it does take a lot of upper body strength, in the shoulders and back as well as of course working your abs.”
If you are up for the challenge, hang from a chin-up bar with both arms extended. The grip width is completely up to the individual. Your legs should hang straight down, and your pelvis rolled slightly backwards.
“Raise your legs until the torso makes a 90-degree angle with the legs. Slowly lower your legs to the ground, keeping your core engaged and control your breathing.”
Want to Speak to a Personal Trainer in Newcastle About Developing Your Core?
If you would like to know more about engaging your core and the proper technique behind the recommended exercises, our Personal Trainers can help. We have trainers at all of our locations, including three gyms in Newcastle. Get in touch with us to schedule a time with one of our Personal Trainers.