Summer is on the way in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means bathing suit season is right around the corner. So it’s the perfect time of year to work on those “love handles” all the while you’re strengthening your bones.
This weekend’s challenge does exactly that, and more. The Balancing Core Strengthener targets the core muscles, including the abdominals and the often neglected obliques, which are the muscles along your sides. It also works the legs and promotes balance, stability, better posture, and a slimmer figure.
First, let’s look at the specific abdominal muscles this exercise works.
When most of us think of the “abs,” we generally picture the front of the stomach. But the abdominals encompass a lot more than just the belly. Here are the four main groups of abdominal muscles, all of which get worked in the Balancing Core Strengthener.
- The External Obliques run along either side of your abdomen. They originate from the fifth to twelfth ribs and attach to the pelvis at various points. The external obliques support spinal and trunk rotation. They also pull the chest downward in abdominal compression. You use your external obliques every time you twist or turn, or lean from side to side.
- The Internal Obliques are also along your sides, but they are located inside the pelvic bones. They work in opposition to the external obliques – when you turn to the left, your left and internal obliques contract along with your right external obliques.
- The Transversus Abdominus is the deepest of the abdominal muscles. It’s a core muscle layer, located directly beneath the internal obliques. The transversus abdominus provides pelvic and spinal stability, and is instrumental in childbirth. This muscle is very important for strong core and lower back muscles in general, but it’s also key in pulling in your tummy (this may be why its nickname is “the corset muscle”!).
- The Rectus Abdominus is the classic “abs” muscle, and is what you see when a body builder shows off his or her “6-pack.” The rectus abdominus runs between the ribs and pubic bone, which is located at the very front of your pelvis. It’s a key postural muscle, helping to flex the lumbar spine and perform sit-ups. In addition, the rectus abdominus assists in breathing, both inhaling and exhaling. Like the transverses abdominus, the rectus abdominus also aids in childbirth.
- The Multifidus, a deep muscle of the back. It connects along your spine and works with the transverses abdominus, enhancing spinal stability. A strong multifidus muscle helps guard against injury and muscle strain.
A Word About Your Core Muscles
Many of you have asked about what, exactly, the core muscles are. The four muscle groups listed above are part of the core, as are pelvic floor muscles, some muscles of the back, and many others.
Your core is something like a sturdy column that connects your upper and lower body. It holds your spine and pelvis stable, and allows you to bend, twist, and stand firmly and move capably. It’s essential for balance and posture.
Now let’s take a look at how to do this weekend’s challenge!
While you don’t need any special equipment to do the Balancing Core Strengthener, you should make sure you’re near a chair or wall in case you need to catch yourself.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward.
- Point the toes of your right foot out to the side and bring the leg out a bit.
- Now bring your right knee up and your right elbow down so they touch.
- Bring your right leg back down almost to the floor.
- Repeat 25 times, or as many times as you comfortably can.
- Switch sides and repeat.
- As you do this exercise, pull abs inward to keep the muscles tight’.
- Make sure your engage your abdominals and obliques, so you’re not just moving your arm and leg around.
- Try not to bend to the side to get your elbow and knee to meet. Keep your face forward and your spine and neck straight.
Scientifically Proven: Core Exercises Improve Balance
In a randomized, controlled trial, researchers sought to determine the effects of a home-based exercise program on older adults’ balance. I found it intriguing that this study specifically assessed the benefits of exercise done at home, such as the in the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System. Their conclusion is especially encouraging:
“[…] an unsupervised, short duration home exercise program of core strengthening exercises can improve core muscle and dynamic balance.”1
This fits perfectly with Densercise™, which is practiced three times a week for just 15 minutes. And Densercise has plenty of balancing exercises that work your stabilizing muscles and reduce the risk of falls that could result in painful fractures.
I can’t wait to hear how the Balancing Core Strengthener works for you! Please leave a comment below to let us know.
Enjoy the weekend!
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1 Kahle, Nicole and Tevald, Michael A. “Core Muscle Strengthening’s Improvement of Balance Performance in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Pilot Study.” Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. 2014. 22, 65-73. PDF.