Your Core Muscles: The Support Crew of Your Body
Your core muscles have a tough job to do. Your core consists of some 30 muscles that connect your legs to your hips, spine, and rib cage. They have to work together to help stabilize your torso. Core strength is the primary force that controls motion in the hips and the spine when you are moving. The stronger the muscles, the more stable your center, and the more efficient you are in general, particularly with activity.
As we get older, our fat deposits in different areas for males and females. In females, it tends to deposit more into the thighs, and the buttocks. But for guys, it tends to deposit in our bellies. For that reason, it is even more important for the guys to continue working on these core exercises. You want to look good for your wedding day, but you want to keep looking good, and be healthier into the future. This distribution of body fat is important clinically as the fat deposits around our belly are associated with a greater risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease.
Strengthening your core muscles can be part of your resistance training that you should be incorporating at least 2, up to 3, times per week. The following are some examples that can be done for this.
1. Frontal/Side Leg Swings: Stand next to a wall, and put your left hand on the wall. Flexing your left foot (raising your toes), swing your left leg forward and back, as far as you can each direction, but move slowly. Work your way up to 10 reps per leg. Switch to side leg swings: With both hands on the wall and slight bend in the left knee, flex left foot upward. Swing left leg to the left, then to the right. Again, work your way up to 10 reps per leg.
2. Rotating Knee Lift: Hold ball, or weight, at chest height, elbows to the side. Keep your eyes on the weight and twist to the right. As you rotate back, lift your left knee to your waist. As left leg returns to standing, rotate torso again to the right. Do 10 times. Switch sides. Twist to the left and raise right leg.
3. Wood Choppers (Swiss ball hyperextensions and crunches): Standing with your feet about 18-24 inches apart, extend ball or weight over right shoulder. Lower into a squat, and swing the ball/ weight to the outside of your left knee. Rise and swing ball up over your right shoulder, pivoting on the left toe, and rotating slightly. Do 10 on each side.
4. Dumbbell workouts: Holding a pair of dumbbells, take small steps forward for 10 seconds and backward for 10 seconds. Breathe normally. You can work your way up to 3 sets, a minute apart. You can use different size weights for the dumbbells, just start slow and work your way up.
5. Get-Up and Go: Lie on your back, and raise a dumbbell with your right arm held above you. Then stand up, keeping your arm straight the entire time. Lower back down the way you started. If rising up from the floor is too much to start with, you can do this either lying on a bed, or a bench. Work your way up to 3-5 sets, with each arm, with several minutes rest in between.
6. Side plank: Lie on your right side, supporting your upper body on your right forearm, with your left arm at your left side. Lift your hips and, keeping your body weight supported on the forearm and the side of the right foot, extend your left arm above your shoulder. Hold this position for 10-30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
These exercises for your core can be done using other types of weight, your own body weight, or the use of an exercise ball. You have to use what you are comfortable with, or are capable of doing. Remember to start off slowly, and gradually increase the amount of time performing them, and the number of repetitions that you are doing with them.
Good Luck, and Be Safe!
Dr. Dan Reiffenberger, MD