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How much core strength do you need?

When it comes to fitness, almost every magazine or website has some type of article on how to improve your core strength. (Your core includes abdominal muscles, back muscles, glutes, deep hip and spinal stabilizers, pelvic floor and respiratory diaphragm.) I’ve written other posts about how to get a stronger core, too. I’ve also written about why and how you’ll benefit.

But when I started thinking about writing this post and sharing some lesser-known ways a strong core can keep you healthy, I realized there’s been something missing in all this talk about core strength.  How to tell if you NEED more strength.

The term core strength is over simplifying things, but it’s easy to say. I’m really talking about training the core musculature to be active when needed and to provide stability, control and postural endurance to the spine and your body’s center. I’m using the word “strength” to encompass all that.

When your core has this type of “strength”, you can move through daily life with energy and resilience!

How do you know if you really need to work on strengthening your core? How much or how little strength is actually necessary?

The short answer is: It depends. What’s your activity level? Are you athletic? Play a sport? Been struggling with back pain, knee pain, any kind of pain?

Answer the questions in this simple self-assessment and let’s find out if your core could use a little work.

  1. Do you run out of energy getting through your day (even sitting at a desk all day)?
  2. Do you need to hold onto something for balance when putting on your pants?
  3. Do your knees ache when you stand up from sitting or climb up and down stairs? Or do your shoulders hurt when reaching over head or carrying a load?
  4. Do you slouch or have bad posture?
  5. Do you have back pain or neck pain often? Or do you seem to get injured frequently when you try a new activity?

How’d you do? Three to five yes’s, you’re core definitely needs some work. One to two yes’s, some core strengthening will help. All no’s – way to go! Just keep doing what you’re doing!

Let me give you a quick run-down of why a stronger core will help with all of these.

  1. A stable core creates more efficient movement and postural control, which leads to less fatigue.
  2. A strong core gives your body control – steadiness through your hips and trunk equate to good balance.
  3. Core strength and stability keeps extra stress off the knees and shoulders. Power and movement start from our center.
  4. Good posture requires endurance in the deep stabilizing muscles of the spine. Also, when you’re collapsed forward, the ability of your lungs to expand fully is limited. Improve your posture and you will breathe easier, too.
  5. Strength through the deep stabilizers of the spine and hips allow you to move with ease, reducing your risk of getting hurt.

If you determined that you could use a stronger core, the best place to start is with the plank exercise.

It’s my favorite foundation exercise to develop core strength and stability – the photo above is the basic position. It activates the stabilizer muscles surrounding the spine and hips that are essential for endurance and injury prevention. And it can be modified so it’s suitable for anyone at any level of fitness.

Next month, I’m throwing out a 20-day Core Challenge on Facebook. Starting on June 5, I’m posting a video every Monday on my Facebook page showing different variations of the plank exercise. We’re aiming for 1-2 minutes, 5 days a week – that’s all. We all can make that kind of time in our schedule. By the end of June you’ll notice a difference in your body! My goal is to show it doesn’t take a big time commitment to take care of yourself.

Please join me!  Like my Facebook Page here to stay in the loop.

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P.S. Keep track of your progress with this printable calendar – get it here!