Updated: May 16
When you picture a strong core, you probably imagine someone doing tons of crunches to grow their muscles. But building ab strength is about so much more than physical appearance: It can help you go about everyday tasks with more ease and improve your overall wellbeing. Core work is the center of every movement; it’s actually a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle.
Losing the fat around your midsection can be a battle. In addition to being a risk factor for several diseases, excess abdominal fat may make you feel bloated and discouraged. Luckily, several strategies have been shown to be especially effective at reducing your waist size.
Contrary to popular belief, getting a flat stomach doesn't depend solely on exercise – in fact, eating healthy and practicing good lifestyle habits might have an even bigger effect on your stomach!
Why do I Want a Strong and Flexible Core?
It Supports Better Posture Your core actually wraps around your entire torso, including muscles in your sides and back. When all of your core muscles are stronger, particularly your inner core muscles that attach to your spine, it helps you better keep yourself upright with good posture.Sitting at a desk for long periods of time can negatively impact your core strength regardless of your activity outside of work.
It Improves Balance Total core strength and the good posture it brings also benefits your balance. That's because when you're working from a solid base, it's easier to stay upright on unsteady ground or recover from a stumble. It creates an equilibrium in your body. You stand a little bit taller and have a balance throughout your entire physical being.
It Supports Good Running Form Another perk of better balance? An easier time recovering from missteps and staying in stride while you're on a jog. A strong core also helps you sustain solid form when you run, he adds. Core strength allows the pelvis, hips, and lower back to work together more smoothly with less rocking and less excess energy expended.
It Increases Stability Having a sturdy torso helps you hold steady no matter what activity you're doing. A strong core helps you stand straighter and keeps your trunk stabilized during your workout or even as you go about your daily activities. If you have a weak core, you instantly heighten your risk of muscle injuries, lower back pain, and poor posture.
It Protects Your Organs Organs are a vital part of your body's function, and a strong core can help keep some of them safe. Organs like your liver, spleen, kidneys, and more live right underneath your abdominal wall, which acts as a shield against the outside. As a result, the stronger the core, the better it protects that tissue from external force or damage.
It Makes Everyday Life Easier Your core is the base of all the moves you make. So the stronger the core, the easier it is to execute everyday movements like bending down to pick something off the ground, standing for long periods of time, or doing household chores. This is why many core exercises fall under the umbrella of functional fitness: They can help you go about your day with more ease, literally making you more functional.
It Can Reduce or Prevent Pain It helps you feel better overall. Having a strong core simply makes your quality of life easier. It reduces any pain you may be having, supports your lower back, strengthens your spine, and makes you feel a whole lot better. That's because the ripple effects of a strong core — better posture, better balance, moving around with more ease — can help you avoid irritation and mitigate the discomfort from behaviors like sitting at your computer all day so that you can feel your best.
It Boosts Your Power When it comes to exercise, a strong core is never a bad idea. Your core is the powerhouse of all of your movements, so building abdominal strength can help you perform athletic movements like swinging a tennis racket or baseball bat, throwing a punch, or weight lifting with more power than you would otherwise.
It Supports Strength Training Strength isn't just important in your core — working the muscles throughout your body can help you function your best. And a solid core sets the stage for success with that additional strength training. A strong core means the ability to lift more weight. Strong lifts require a great deal of stability and core strength to execute with proper form.
It Helps You Age Well Core strength is important throughout your life. It stabilizes your entire body and gives you better balance and posture, all of which can help prevent falls, decrease back pain, and keep you mobile as you get older.
Do you want flat abs?
Seems like everybody these days wants “flat abs”. Having flat abs is a sign of being in shape, healthy, young, and beautiful. It takes a lot of work. Often, people are frustrated by the process. People do exercises and change their habits thinking that they are doing the right thing but find that they are getting more aches and pains. And, the belly pooch just will not go away. To understand why this happens and what to do about it, let’s start with defining what are ab and core muscles.
What muscles constitute the abs?
When people think of abs, they usually think of the six-pack muscles in the middle of their belly or the rectus abdominis. As shown in the diagram above, there are a lot of other muscles in the abdomen. The core isn’t one muscle; it’s a relationship between a number of muscles that cover your whole trunk, connecting your hips, spine, neck and shoulders. The rectus abdominis, or “six-pack” muscles, are only part of it. The core refers to everything from the armpits to the knees.
Some of the most important abdominal muscles are:
Transverse Abdominals (TAs or TVAs) are the deepest layer of abdominal muscles. These muscles are like a corset under the six-pack muscles.
Internal Obliques (IOs) are the next layer up, and they run diagonally on the sides.
External Obliques (EOs) are the muscles closest to the surface. They run diagonally on the sides like putting your hands in your pockets, opposite of the IOs.
Rectus Abdominis (RA) is the muscle we think of as the six-pack muscle. It's often the one most targeted by traditional abdominal work.
The transverse abdominals and internal obliques are geared toward stability, and external obliques and rectus abdominis are geared toward motion.
What is the best exercise to burn belly fat?
Let's get one thing straight, right away. You can't spot reduce belly fat – when you lose body fat, you'll lose it from all over, not one specific place. Similarly, no one exercise is going to torch stomach fat specifically. Your diet, stress levels and sleep play just as (if not more) important role in your body being able to effectively lose fat.
Regular movement, including these exercises, will keep your body strong, build muscle and burn calories – all-important building blocks in losing fat.
The old adage is true though: you can't out-exercise a bad diet, so be mindful about how you're fueling your fat loss too.
A focus on the following food groups in your diet in strongly recommended:
Nutrient-rich vegetables: kale, spinach, collard greens
Lean protein: turkey, chicken or tofu
Unprocessed carbohydrates: potatoes, bananas, rice and quinoa
Why do I have a belly pooch?
The most obvious reason people have a big belly is because there is an excess of fat in that area. The excess weight makes a budge itself and it also pulls everything in the middle forward making even more of a pooch. This causes pain in areas like the low back.
Even people with very little fat can have a belly that pooches out. There are other factors that can cause the belly to pooch out. Do your ab muscles pop up and out when you lie flat on the floor and lift your head up? This is very common but is not what is supposed to happen. Your ab muscles are supposed to flatten or scoop in when you lift your head. The popping out of the muscles is caused by a problem like separation of the abs after pregnancy or when the muscles of the core are not in balance with each other. If you have these problems, then the more ab work you do, the more your abs will bulge.
Your abs may also pooch out because of the tilt your pelvis. If you look at your hip bones from the side, the bones should be straight across and level. A common problem is that the pelvis will tip toward the front. This tipping forward causes the belly to stick out. It also causes posture problems, weak and stressed-out muscles, and pain.
How to fix abdominal pooching?
There are several things to do to fix the abdomen pooching. First, you need to make sure the core muscles are balanced and contracting evenly. This means you need to strengthen the weak muscles which is often the transverse abdominis.
You also need to make sure your pelvis is not tipping forward. This usually means strengthen your glutes and hamstring muscles so that they hold your pelvis in the right place.
You can have well developed ab muscles, but they will not be seen if there is too much fat being stored above them.
Related : Which Protein is Good for Me?
The final piece to getting flat abs is to lose excess weight. The best way to reduce the extra weight is to change up your diet, reduce the calories you consume, reduce your stress, and increase the amount of physical exercise you do.
If you lose your excess weight, work on balancing your ab muscles, and practice contracting your abs properly, it is possible to finally get the flat abs you want.
It is difficult to know exactly what diet, nutrition and exercises will work best for you. You can simplify the process and make it go faster if you have a coach to guide you. If you would like some professional help, just reach out and schedule a call. We are here to help!
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About the authors:
Madur & Anitha Jagannath are certified Nutrition Consultants, in addition to their professions in technology and human resources. When Madur started feeling lethargic and slowing down, he started exercising regularly, became conscious of healthy eating habits and nutrition. He is an avid runner and does half-marathons often. At Voyage to Wellness, they attribute our reputation to the lasting customer relationships they have developed throughout the years. They believe in health & wellness and being fit, at all stages of people's lives.
Cynthia Croissant had always been active and healthy growing up. But as she got older, staying in shape got a lot more difficult. After getting diagnosed with osteopenia, she began strength training. She started getting frustrated with the traditional way to lift weights because she kept getting injured. She was determined to figure out a way to get stronger and healthier. So, she got certified by NASM, StrongFirst, Ground Force Methods, and others. Using information from those certifications, she created a program to get herself out of pain and get back to doing the lifting she wants to do and reversed the osteopenia.
Now, she is passionate about sharing her simple system for resetting your body and helping other people get stronger, move better, and improve their wellness.