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Strong from within

Strong from within

Healthy Food Guide fitness expert Sarah Cowley is full of ideas to get you active.

Strengthening your core muscles has multiple benefits and is easy enough to start today.

Having a strong core is not just about getting a six pack. It’s about having a stable base from which to perform functional everyday movements, maintain good posture and be able to transmit forces through your lower and upper body.

There’s a misconception that your core is just about abdominal muscles. Your core is essentially your trunk, comprising spinal muscles, pelvic floor muscles and muscles that extend over your hip. Think about your core as a corset of muscles. When we strengthen these muscles, we create a strong central foundation for our bodies to move around.

The great thing about developing core strength is you don’t necessarily need any to start. When we think about core strengthening, traditionally it’s a sit up or crunch but there are loads of other options. You can start today, building your core strength on your lounge floor, with exercises such as leg changes [pictured].

There are equipment options, as well, for core strength exercises, eg, Swiss balls, suspension trainers, foam rollers and resistance bands and weights.

My five favourite core exercises are:

  1. Superman exercises in four-point kneeling
  2.  Pelvic floor bridges (good for any mums out there)
  3. The bear crawl or wheelbarrow walk with a partner
  4. Side planks with leg lifts (see here)
  5. And, if anyone is crazy like me, pike pulses.

You don’t have to develop core strength in isolation. Try slightly indrawing your belly button to your spine to activate your deep abdominal muscles with any exercise you do. When you engage your deeper abdominals (and it takes practice) you create a much more stable centre for exercise.

For those suffering from back injuries, really try to develop your trunk strength. When our core muscles fire, we create a stable base for our spinal segments to move around and this, in turn, allows the spinal loads to be distributed as intended. This minimises injury and optimises performance.

Leg changes

1 Lying on your back, slightly draw in your belly button to your spine to activate the deep abdominal muscles. Raise your right leg to approximately 90 degrees at the hip and bend at the knee so your shin is parallel to the floor. Take your left leg off the ground.

2 Bending at the knee, bring your left knee upwards and, at the same time, begin to straighten your right leg, lowering it to the ground, effectively swapping legs.


3 Alternate legs while maintaining good pelvic and lower back stability, with deep abdominal muscles switched on.
First published: Feb 2019

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