Core Essentials and the Plank

It was not long ago when you never heard the word "core" in health and fitness. Nowadays core is a popular term and frequently used in the exercise world.  It is also said to be one of the most important areas of the body to keep strong. This is true! However, the core is oftentimes the weakest area of body when people are inactive, mainly do to the increase in sitting in a chair and the inactive lifestyle our world encourages these days. Fortunately, it is a very easy problem to fix because of the plank. I can't tell you how many lower back problems I have fixed by strengthening the core.  A weak core leads to injuries, back pain, and a host of other problems that plague the more sedentary population.  A strong core leads to optimal athletic performance, improved strength for weightlifting, good balance, good posture, and a pain free body! That is why strengthening and stretching the core is always a focus when I train my clients.   

First of all, what is the core?  Having a strong core doesn't only mean having "ripped abs" or a "six pack".  The core starts at the shoulders and goes all the way down to your glutes, which is  your entire torso and a little more. You could say that the core basically is the trunk of your body.

Stretching the core is not hard at all.  Doing the ole' touch the toes stretch or the sit and reach will stretch the back nicely.  Also standing tall and pushing up through the sky is a great way to stretch.  I recommend getting up and stretching at least once every 2 hours to get loosen up the core. 

There are many exercises that strengthen the core.  Deadlifts, squats, and overhead holds are some of the many exercises improve core strength, but the best and easiest exercise to keep your core at it's best is the plank!  The plank is easy to perform and can be done in a variety of ways and it engages the whole core all at once. I incorporate a variety of different planks for my clients: wide hands plank, close hands plank, elbows plank, side plank, and half plank.  You can also lift one leg or one arm or use a bosu ball to keep your core off balance. I recommend at least 3 to 8 minutes of plank 4 days a week to keep the core functioning at it's peak once you get strong enough to do so.  We even have a prestigious "Plank Club" at Zen Fitness that is a series of 6 one minute planks in succession.  Plank can be done on breaks at work, on vacation in your hotel room, or having a "plank till you drop" competition with friends and family!  So what are you waiting for?! PLANK!!!