What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “core”?
….I would guess, ABS.
But there’s more to the core than the abdominal muscles. The back muscles, obliques and glutes also make up the core.
Having a strong core will make your life easier. We use it almost every movement…lifting stuff, twisting, playing sports……even small tasks like bending and sitting use the core. A strong core will also improve your posture and reduce risk of lower back pain.
There are various ways of strengthening the core. And isometrics is one of the most effective. Just in case you don’t know what isometric exercises are…..they are exercises which involve contraction of muscles without any joint movement. Basically, you tense the muscles to prevent them from lengthening.
One of the most popular isometric core exercises you may know is the plank. But as you’ll see, the plank is not the only isometric exercise that can increase your core strength and stability.
Just because these exercises are not popular, it doesn’t mean they aren’t effective. The mainstream media doesn’t promote exercises which they can’t make money off. No weights or equipment needed, all you need is your body and you are good to go.
Why should I do Isometric Core Exercises?
As I’ve mentioned, there are many core exercises out there. So, you are probably wondering why you should opt for isometrics.
Most core exercises cause back pain. Exercises like sit-ups put a lot of pressure on the spine and eventually cause back pain. Isometrics are safer and some will help get rid of lower back pain.
I may add – as you age, some exercises will become difficult to execute. Not isometrics – they are for people of all ages, from beginner to advanced.
Build extraordinary strength
Don’t be fooled by the lack of movement. These exercises increase muscle and strength.
Keeping the muscles tense forces them to give to maximum effort – which makes them grow.
In fact, a study conducted in the 1950’s found that performing isometric exercises regularly, increases strength by 5% per week for period of up to 10 weeks.
No enough time to exercise
If you don’t have time for a 40-minute workout – isometric exercises are a no-brainer. You will finish your sets in seconds.
For a start, aim for a minimum of 30 seconds for each set.
This is another reason you may want to do isometric exercises. Keeping the muscles tense for 30 seconds is not easy. Pushing through each set, workout after workout will greatly increase your mental strength.
Mental toughness will not only help you push through workouts, but also will also help you control cravings and avoid binging.
It’s always advisable to use a timer when doing isometric exercises. If you don’t, you’ll be giving up in under 10 seconds. Now, all you need is – to learn proper form, a timer, space, and you are good to go.
8 Isometric exercises to increase your core strength and stability.
Let’s get the plank out of the way, since it’s the obvious exercise.
The plank can do a lot for you, especially if you do all the variations below.
And do them properly.
Remember to tighten the abdominal muscles and the glutes throughout the exercise. This helps prevent the hips from sinking.
Let’s look into the 3 plank variations you can do to increase core strength.
Straight Arm Plank
To perform the straight arm plank – Lie flat on your stomach, place your hands on the floor, beside your shoulders. Then push yourself up until your arms are straight. Keep your neck, torso and legs aligned in a straight line. Now hold that position for 30 seconds or more.
To perform the forearm plank – Lie flat on your stomach then place your forearms on the floor, make sure the elbows are directly below the shoulders. Lift the stomach off the floor to align the body in a straight line. Then hold that position as long as you can.
To have a killer core you need strong obliques and the side plank will help you get just that.
The side plank can be done on straight arm or forearm position.
To perform side plank – Lie sideways, rest the elbow of the bottom arm on the floor and then lift the hip off the floor. The upper foot should be resting on the bottom one. Squeeze the abs and glutes to prevent the hips from sinking. Switch sides after you finish the first set.
You can make all these plank variations more challenging by placing your feet on a box or chair.
Superman/ Arch Back Hold
This is one of the safest and effective exercises for building a strong lower back.
To perform the superman hold – lie flat on your stomach. Then outstretch your arms forward. Keep the head and upper chest off the floor, then lift the feet off the floor and squeeze your glutes. Hold that position as long as you can.
The hollow body is a very popular exercise in gymnastics. And it will help you a great deal if you want to improve your handstand.
To perform the hollow body – lie flat on your back, then lower your belly until the lower back touches the floor.
Now, outstretch your hands such that they are touching your ears. Then straighten your legs and keep the toes pointed. Raise the shoulders and feet off the floor. Your head should be between your arms and make sure the lower back doesn’t come off the floor.
Keep the shoulders and legs off the floor, and hold that position.
Glute Bridge Hold
It’s a shame that most folks don’t train the glutes as part of their core workout. Everybody needs strong glute muscles, since we use them in so many movements.
Not only that – glutes are a big muscle group and training them burns a lot of calories. Additionally, physicians recommend the Glute Bridge as a rehabilitation exercise for lower back pain and hip pain.
You need this exercise regardless of your fitness level.
To perform glute bridge – Lie flat on your back with knees bent and hands on the side. Then lift the butt off the floor as high as you can. At the top, squeeze the glutes and hold that position. Keep your feet flat on the floor throughout. Hold this position for 30 seconds or more.
Bird Dogs Hold
The bird dogs hold is also another core exercise which trains the lower back muscles. And it requires balance to execute because you are supporting yourself with one arm and one leg.
To perform bird dogs hold – start on all fours and keep you neck and back aligned in a straight line. Then outstretch one arm forward until it’s in line with the torso. Then kick the opposite leg backward until it’s in line with the torso. At this point you should be supporting yourself with one arm and opposite leg. Then hold that position for 30 seconds or more.
The L-sit will help you build an iron core. But I have to warn you, the L-sit is a one of the most humbling exercises out there. No matter how many crunches you can do, the L-sit will still challenge you.
Other than strong abdominal muscles, you also need strong shoulders and arms to perform this exercise. You can either perform it on the floor or on parallel bars.
To perform the L-sit – place your palms on the floor (or bar). Then push your butt off the floor, lift your legs in front of you and keep them parallel to the floor. Hold that position as you as you can. One minute is a great goal if you want to build a very strong core.
The Dragon Flag
If you are a big Bruce Lee fan like I’m, you’ll love this one. Invented by the great legend, this hardcore exercise is one of the best for building six pack abs and a killer core.
Don’t perform this exercise if your core is not strong enough because it poses a high injury risk. Build your core strength with the easier exercises first.
To perform the dragon flag – Lie on a flat and sturdy bench, then grab the edges of the bench behind your head with both arms. Squeeze all the muscles – arms, trapezius, abs, glutes and quadriceps. Then lift your body up until you only the shoulders are touching the bench. Try to keep the torso and feet aligned in a straight line. Hold that position as long as you can.
The Back Bridge
You’ve heard me talk of the back bridge before. And that’s because it’s one of the best exercises out there.
Even though it is a hard one to master. You’ll benefit a lot from learning it. For one, it will help improve your core strength and flexibility.
Like most bodyweight exercises, there are many variations for the back bridge.
To perform the straight bridge – Sit with the feet straight, place your arms behind your butt, about hip-width apart. Then lift your hips high off the floor until the body is aligned in straight line. Tighten you glutes and thighs to hold the body straight.
It’s like the straight arm plank done upside down.
Back Neck Bridge
Also called the wrestler’s bridge, it strengthens the back muscles, the neck and glutes. Do this exercise on a soft surface or use a cushion because it requires you to support the body with your head.
To perform this exercise – lie flat on your back, keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Then place your hands beside your head and push your back off the floor, your head should remain on the floor.
Then take your hands off the floor, and use the head to support the upper body. Hold that position as you as you can.
Support yourself with the arms if your neck isn’t strong enough to support the body.
Full Back Bridge
This will improve your flexibility more than the other variations. Doing a full back bridge requires to have strong shoulders, arms, and be flexible. Don’t jump straight to it. First, master the above variations before you attempt a full back bridge.
To perform full back bridge – Lie flat on your back with knees bent. Then place hands behind your head, and push yourself off the floor until the body is bow-shaped . Only your hands and legs should be on the floor. Hold that position for as long as you can.
Having a strong core is a great advantage. You’ll be able to do more advanced bodyweight exercises and perform more challenging tasks at home or work.
The good thing is you don’t have to do all the exercises listed above. Just make sure the exercises you pick will help build an all-round strong core.
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