The Truth About Abs
How to Strengthen Your Core
In this article I’m going to share with you some tips on strengthening your core muscles, iron out some myths about abdominal training and share with you how to train your abdominals safely and effectively.
I’m going to cover two popular questions, I’ve been asked lots of times throughout my years as a Personal Trainer and Pilates Instructor.
What are your core muscles?
A misconception is that core muscles are just the abdominals.
Core muscles consist of underlying muscles that stabilize your trunk – these do include abdominal muscles such as obliques, rectus abdominus but there’s lots more too such as the diaphragm, pelvic floor, lower back muscles. Muscles that stabilise the pelvis, hips and shoulders are also part of your core muscles.
When training your core you want to ensure that you don’t just focus on abdominal exercises.
Performing lots of Abdominal exercises can cause back pain due to weakening your lower back.
Its useful to know that when we strengthen a muscle it will shorten if we don’t train the opposing muscles. So doing lots of ab work can shorten the abs and as a result the lower back muscles can lengthen and become weaker.
Therefore abdominal exercises such as Ab Curl’s, Oblique Twists, Toe Taps, should be followed by exercises for the lower back such as Swan Dive.
If you’ve been guilty of doing lots of abdominal exercises and you know you’ve neglected your lower back, I’d recommend changing your focus to strengthening your lower back by adding in exercises like the Swan Dive and reduce the abdominal exercises.
Also perform exercises such as a Plank and Side Plank but be mindful of good technique and not putting excess pressure on your back and do not hold your breathe!
To find out how to perform these exercises safely and effectively join our Facebook group where we share lots of Pilates videos in our Guides folder.
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How do I get a flat toned tummy? How do I Get a Six-Pack? Do I Need to do Lots of Abdominal Exercises?
A popular misconception is that to get a flatter tummy we need to work on that area.
This is untrue. I’m afraid we can’t ‘Spot Reduce’ and lose weight/body fat from those stubborn areas by working the muscles in that area.
Unfortunately, ladies usually store body fat in areas such as Hips, Bottom, Breasts and Tummy and Men tend to store body fat around the waist. And it is these very areas where we hang on to our body-fat often leaving the tummy area until the very last.
The answer to this is: Reduce Your Body Fat!
This is done in two ways and NO performing lots of Abdominal exercises is not one of these
1. Have you heard the saying ‘Abs are Created in The Kitchen’
This is so true, eating a healthy well-balanced diet is key!
We need to use more calories than we eat and limit foods that are calorie dense and lacking nutrients, such as cakes, biscuits, chocolate, crisps, alcohol. All the naughty treats!
2. Increase your lean muscle through resistance training such as weights, body weight exercises, Pilates, Yoga. Bigger muscles burn more calories.
So to summarise:
- Core Muscles are muscles that stabilise our trunk, not just abdominals
- Ensure you balance your abdominal exercises with lower back exercises like Swan Dive
- To create a more toned, flatter tummy we need to reduce our body fat through a good diet and increasing lean muscle, bigger muscles burn more calories
If you feel that you would benefit from learning more about strengthening your core, try Pilates!