How to Keep Your Core Strong During Lockdown
by Luke Hanna
With the current “situation” and gyms being shut across the country, many of us are less active than ever. But this doesn’t have to be the case!
Maintaining some form of routine and exercise is not only good for our physical health but our mental health too, which is very important at times like this.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do from the safety of your home and with minimal equipment.
Why not start with working on your core?
Firstly, it’s important to understand what your “core” is and why we should keep it strong. Many think of the core as just your abs or what we see when you have a six-pack however there’s a lot more to it than that! It also encompasses the musculature surrounding your lower back and hips, which is why it’s important to do more than just crunches.
Why should we train our core?
1. A strong and stable core can improve athletic performance!
With access to gyms limited, many have taken to running. Did you know that strengthening your core has been shown to improve running performance? One study showed improvements in 5k times with just 6 weeks of adding in some specific core work. If you wanna beat your pal’s 5k times or simply become a better athlete, implement some of the exercises below!
2. Improving core strength and stability may reduce injuries!
Strong abdominal muscles provide support for the lumbar spine during the day to day activities and may prevent low back pain. Injuries to the muscles and joints are associated with insufficient strength and endurance of the muscles that stabilise the core. Essentially a strong core has the potential to keep you pain and injury-free.
3. If you want visible abs then you should train them!
If you want a six-pack, the most important thing is that you do not have a layer of body-fat covering them. So the first port of call would be lean enough to see them, which can be achieved through a calorie deficit aka burning more calories than you consume. However, the abdominals still need to be worked like any other muscle if you want them to grow. It has been shown in the research that training a muscle 2-3x per week is optimal for hypertrophy.
Aim to incorporate the exercises below into your routine at least a couple times a week if it is an aesthetic goal of yours to have abs.
The Core Exercises:
1. Hollow Hold (Position 1)
- Lay with your back flat on the floor
- Keep your knees close to a 90-degree angle
- Feet close to the floor but not touching
- Raise your shoulders off the floor by imagining drawing your ribcage down towards your hips and reaching towards your heels (do not strain your neck!)
- Keep your hands by your hips but off the ground
- Hold for 30seconds (it’s harder than it looks!)
2. Hollow Hold (Position 2)
- Same instructions as above but extend one leg out so it’s straight.
- Hold for 20seconds then swap legs and do another 20seconds.
3. Hollow Hold (Position 3)
- Same instructions as above but extend both legs out so they’re straight
- Hold for 30-40s
- If you want to make this REALLY hard.. extend both arms out behind you
4. Power Plank
- Elbows should be directly under your shoulders
- Make sure your body is straight and your back isn’t “sagging”
- Drive your elbows and toes into the ground and imagine pulling the ground towards your centre
- Hold for 30seconds and keep squeezing
5. Plank/Elbow Shuffle
- Start in the same position with your elbow under your shoulders
- Shuffle one forward, follow with the second, then return to normal position
- Keep your feet in the same place
- Avoid your hips wobbling!
- Aim for 10-15 reps
6. V-Sit/Flutter Kicks
- Sit on your bum with your chest up and back straight
- Raise your feet slightly off the floor
- Sit back a little and perform alternating small flutter kicks
- Aim for 30seconds
7. Pallof Press (Band)
- Anchor the band at chest height when you’re in a kneeling position
- Plant one foot in front of the other
- Face side on to where the band is anchored
- Keep your ribcage down and engage your abs
- While holding the band in both hands, press straight forward in a controlled fashion
- Resist the bands urge to pull back to the anchor
- Bring back to the chest slowly and repeat
- Aim for 10-15 reps each side
8. Single-Leg Hip Thrusts
- Lay flat on your back
- Plant one foot and keep the other out straight
- Drive through your heel and raise your hips off the floor
- Squeeze your glute and keep your hips stable
- Aim for 10 each side
- Raise your shoulders (e.g. on the sofa) to make it harder
9. Side Plank
- Position yourself on your side with your elbow under your shoulder
- Raise your hips off the floor and maintain a straight body
- Hold for 30 seconds each side