How to improve core strength? Fitness trainers answer the most googled questions

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How can you get a stronger core? Stylist Strong trainers answer the most googled questions.

If you think core strength is just about having a set of good-looking abs, think again. A strong core has a myriad of benefits – from reducing back pain to improving posture – that can help in both your exercise regime and everyday life.

Workouts that build you abdominal and back muscles (whether you can see them or not) should be part of any training. But what are the best exercises to target your core? And how exactly do you make sure you’re ‘engaging’ your core?

Each week, three trainers from Stylist Strong answer some of the most-asked questions from women who want to get into lifting. This week, they’re sharing their tips for improving your core strength and stability.

HOW DO YOU IMPROVE CORE STRENGTH?

TESS GLYNNE-JONES, TRAINER AT STYLIST STRONG

Doing big lifts, such as squats and deadlifts, will improve your core strength. Heavy lifting is definitely the number one thing. Then anything hanging, like leg raises, is really good because your muscles are lengthened and very loaded, so when you pull your knees up to your chest they shorten and you can get a full contraction. That’s a great way to increase your core strength. Just ditch the sit ups and stick to more of your full body compound movements.”

CAROLINE BRAGG, MASTER TRAINER AT STYLIST STRONG

“Your core is made up of lots of different muscles. One way to start off improving your core is just breathing properly. Lots of people tend to breathe in through their chest rather than diaphragmatically. That diaphragmatic breathing actually helps awaken the transverse abdominals: the core muscles, and the muscles around your rib cage. So learning to breathe fast will help him to engage your core properly. You can also work deep into the core in planks and bird dogs rather than your average crunches and stuff like that. But it all needs to start with breath and connecting your breath with your pelvic floor.”

EMMA OBAYUVANA, TRAINER AT STYLIST STRONG

“A big one for me personally is compound exercises, because I think they’re a lot more effective in building your core strength rather than doing a heap of crunches. Squats really work your core because it forces your ab muscles and spinal erectors to the back to work overtime to maintain that upright position. The other thing I like for building core strength is the plank. I love the plank because it’s an isometric hold that really focuses on your core. We’re really firing up your core. Two things to think about: longer is not always better. So good form in plank for a shorter amount of time is much better – it really targets those deep abdominal muscles – than bad form dragged out for ages.”

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE A STRONG CORE?

TESS GLYNNE-JONES, TRAINER AT STYLIST STRONG

“The big one is for posture, but also to prevent back pain and to help you move well so you don’t get injured. If you have a weak core and you go to pick something heavy up – which you’re going to do at some point, whether when you’re moving house or picking up your kids – the likelihood is your body’s going to look for strength elsewhere and you can get injured really easily. It’s important to make sure that your midsection is strong and can support you.”

CAROLINE BRAGG, MASTER TRAINER AT STYLIST STRONG

“Because it’s the place where everything else shoots off from. Think about your trunk or your torso, if that’s weak then our balance will be off and we won’t be able to stabilise the joint, like when you lunge and sometimes you fall over or drop a knee down. The core is the epicentre of our bodies, so to have a strong core allows us to do the fun stuff. You want to work on the fundamentals and get that nice and strong.”

DOES HAVING ABS MEAN YOU HAVE A STRONG CORE? 

TESS GLYNNE-JONES, TRAINER AT STYLIST STRONG

“No. Abs are superficial, so they’re the muscles that are quite close to the surface. Your core is the whole of your midsection and that actually also includes the muscles around the back and things like your pelvic floor. It’s deep. You can have a really strong core and not have abs, you can also have abs and have a weak core. Heavy lifting will give you that strong core that is necessary for your everyday life, and isolating movements, like crunches, is going to give more of the six pack look.”

CAROLINE BRAGG, MASTER TRAINER AT STYLIST STRONG

“Think of your core more like your inside tummy muscles rather than your six pack muscles. Your core kind of wraps all the way around like a corset. Your rectus abdominus is the superficial layer – the Peter Andre six pack – and then you’ve got deep core muscles, your deep abdominal muscles. There’s the difference between the ones that you can see and the ones that you can’t see. And the ones that you can see are actually called superficial muscles they’re your top ones but the ones you want to get really strong are your deep abdominal muscles.”

EMMA OBAYUVANA, TRAINER AT STYLIST STRONG

“Well, just simply put, we all have abs. But not everybody has a strong core. It’s the same as having hamstrings or biceps, it’s just a muscle in your body. But sometimes you can only see the ab muscles if you’ve got a lower body fat percentage.”

READY TO START WEIGHT TRAINING?

Stylist Strong is a fitness brand specialising in strength training specifically tailored for women. Our classes are designed to build both physical and mental strength in a smart and informed way.

So, whether you’re a beginner or already have strength-training experience, Stylist Strong has a class to suit you. Come and try our strength-based classes, including our new yoga classes, at our own purpose-built studio at The AllBright Mayfair.

Images: Getty

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