Everyone’s always talking about “core work.” But what exactly is it? And why’s it so important? Sure, six-pack abs are impressive and real nice to look at, but a strong core means more than just a hot bod. As a dancer, I think of my core as the essence of movement. Your core muscles are used to stabilize and rotate the rest of your body. Balance and stamina are derived from your core, so the stronger it is, the more effective workouts you’ll have. Here’s a few of my tips when in comes to core work:
Exercise every part of your core.
Remember! Your core isn’t just your midsection; it includes the muscles along the sides and in the back of your body. When it comes to traditional methods, I like to do bicycle crunches – bending one knee to meet the opposite elbow and alternating. This works your midsection and those prime side muscles – peace out, muffin top.
Engage in core work 3-4 times a week.
If you’re doing strength training or any other type of full body workout, you’re absolutely working your core. However, if you don’t give your core full attention at some point during your workout, you’re cutting yourself short! Dedicate total attention to your core 3-4 times a week for a killer midsection and a more beneficial exercise routine.
Don’t cut it short.
If you do 50 crunches in the morning morning and 50 at night, you aren’t benefiting as much as you would with 100 crunches in one sitting. Aim for lengthened exercises that push your limits! You can exercise your core in a variety of ways with balance training, plank holds, lunges with side rotations, and my personal fave, dance cardio! Dance cardio challenges your balance, technique and stamina – perfect for working those crucial core muscles! I always say – if you want a dancer’s body, you gotta dance!
Breathing is everything!
Start focusing on working from your core during your ENTIRE training session. A great way to accomplish this is with proper breathing and by constantly keeping your abdominal muscles engaged – suck your belly button in to your spine. Breathing is extremely important in abdominal exercises, not only for oxygen delivery, but also for getting a better contraction in the muscle.
In the most general terms, you must breathe out on the power stroke of the movement; i.e. the hardest part of the movement. Exhaling during abdominal workouts also helps because it tightens your abs. Let out a whole breath when you are in the tuck position, and feel the difference in the tightness of your abs as opposed to trying to tighten them while holding air in your lungs – big difference!
For example, when doing a basic crunch, Inhale as you lower your body on the floor with your abs engaged and belly button sucked in toward that spine, and as you lift up into the crunch, squeeze the abs and EXHALE…I mean hard! Who cares if you make a little noise with your breathing! Everybody will get over it once they see those new abs, honey!
Recovery is important.
Since you’re going to be paying a lot of attention to your core, remember that these muscles are just like every other muscle in your body – they need time to recover. If you’re feeling the burn after core work, give it a day or two before you go at it again. Recovery time allows your muscles to build and get stronger – and this actually helps burn more fat.
You don’t have to go fast, you just have to go!
Don’t worry about doing 500 crunches in one minute, even if the yogi guru next to you is. The important part is that you have correct form and you feel the burn – that means you’re working hard and firming up!