From VOA Learning English, this is the Health and Lifestyle report.
Your core is a complex network of muscles. It includes your abdominal muscles, back muscles and the muscles around you pelvis. Basically, your core is all the muscles in your torso.
Harvard University’s website explains that a strong core is helpful for everyone. A strong core makes doing everyday activities easier. Basically, almost every movement of your body either begins or travels through your core.
So, a strong core helps you in many ways.
A strong core helps you bend over to pick up a child or reach high above your head to put something on a shelf. It helps your body move when you clean your home, fix your car or work in your garden.
Also, having a strong core can protect you from other problems. It can prevent back and neck injuries. A strong core helps your posture. It helps you to stand up straight and look more confident. But more importantly, health experts at Harvard remind us that good posture lessens stress on the spine and helps us to breathe more deeply.
But wait, there’s more.
Experts at the Mayo Clinic explain on their website that core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work together. This improves your balance and stability.
Strong core muscles also help to make all sports and recreational activities easier and more pleasurable -- whether you are hiking with your family, dancing with your wife or playing a sport with your friends.
So few would argue that a strong core is important. But with life’s busy schedules, how can we find time for core exercises?
The good news is, there are several simple core exercises. You do not need to go to a gym. You don’t need expensive equipment. You can strengthen your core with floor exercises. All you need is a comfortable space on the floor, a mat -- if you prefer -- and maybe a towel.
Five core exercises
These five exercises suggested by the Mayo Clinic target the smaller muscles in your core that are often overlooked in other types of exercise. These exercises are also static, meaning you get into position and stay there still for several deep breaths.
1. The Bridge
The bridge is a classic exercise to strengthen the core.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent. Keep your back in a neutral position. This means do not arch or round your back.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles. Then raise your hips off the floor until they are aligned with your knees and shoulders. In other words, imagine drawing a line that connects your knees, hips and shoulders.
- Hold for several deep breaths.
This exercise is called the Bridge.
2. The Quadruped
The quadruped is another exercise that targets the core.
- Start on your hands and knees. Place your hands on the floor directly below your shoulders. Align your head and neck with your back. Tighten your abdominal muscles.
- Raise your left arm and your right leg at the same time. Then hold for three deep breaths.
- Release back to your hands and knees. And repeat with your right arm and left leg.
This exercise, called the Quadruped, targets your core.
3. The Plank Pose
This pose is a foundation of many yoga exercises. It looks simple, but it is a full core workout.
- Start on all fours, meaning on your hands and knees. Lower yourself down so that you are resting on your forearms. Stretch out your legs behind you.
- Align your head and neck with your back. Place your shoulders directly above your elbows.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles.
- And hold for as many deep breaths as you can. You can slowly build up time as your get stronger.
This is the easy version of the Plank Pose.
The more advanced version is basically the beginning of a push up.
- For an added challenge, raise yourself onto your hands. Your hands should face forward with your wrists under your shoulders. (If you have problems with your wrists, adjust your hands so they are comfortable.)
- The body should be in a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.
- Do not dip or raise your hips. And do not let your chest sink down to the floor.
- Hold for several deep breaths.
This is the advanced Plank Pose.
4. The Side Plank
The side plank challenges your stability and improves core strength by working the muscles along the side of your body.
- Lie on your left side. Raise yourself onto your left forearm. Place your left shoulder directly above your left elbow. Keep your shoulders, hips and knees in alignment. Rest your right arm along the side of your body.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and hold for several deep breaths. Then repeat on your right side.
- For an added challenge, balance on your left hand. Raise your hips off the floor and extend your right hand toward the ceiling. Hold for several deep breaths. Then repeat on your right side.
This is the easy version of the Side Plank improves exercise.
This is the advanced Side Plank pose. It improves your balance and stability.
5. The Superman
This exercise strengthens your lower back. It also allows you to pretend you are flying like Superman!
- Lie on the floor on your stomach. Place a rolled up towel under your hips to support your back. Tighten your abdominal muscles.
- Raise your right arm off the floor. Hold for several deep breaths. Lower your right arm and repeat with your left.
- Then raise your right leg off the floor. Hold for several deep breaths. Lower your right leg and then repeat with your left.
For an added challenge, try this version.
- Raise both arms at the same time. Hold for several breaths. Then raise both legs at the same time. Hold for several breaths.
- Then try raising both arms and both legs at the same time. Hold for several breaths.
The Superman strengthens your lower back.
These are all simple exercises that most people should be able to do. But you know what is right for your body. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. And, of course, if you have any health concerns, check with your doctor before doing any exercises.
And that’s the Health & Lifestyle report.
I’m Anna Matteo, wishing you a strong core!
Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor. Ashley Thompson demonstrates the exercises.
Words in This Story
posture – n. the way in which your body is positioned when you are sitting or standing
confident – adj. having a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something : having confidence
spine – n. the row of connected bones down the middle of the back
stability – n. the quality or state of someone who is emotionally or mentally healthy
abdominal – n. the part of the body below the chest that contains the stomach and other organs
pelvis – n. the wide curved bones between the spine and the leg bones
torso – n. the main part of the human body not including the head, arms, and legs
classic – adj. very typical
tighten – v. to make (something) tight or tighter or to become tight or tighter
yoga – n. a system of exercises for mental and physical health
arched – adj. something that has a curved shape
align – v. to arrange things so that they form a line or are in proper position
alignment – n. a forming in line
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