Canyon Ranch Blog

The Many Body Benefits of Core Strength

Many of us equate core strength with a flat belly or six-pack abs. And while those may be motivating goals to you, there are so many more benefits that come from improving core strength than how your midsection looks, including improved posture, better balance, reduced back pain and easier breathing.

Where is your core, exactly? If you pointed to somewhere around your navel, you’re partially right. Many people think the core consists only of the abdominals, but the core also includes your pelvic muscles, mid and lower back muscles, and even your hip muscles. All of these muscles work together to support your spine and skull.

How Does Core Strength Benefit Your Body?
Think of your core as a muscular corset that stabilizes your entire body, helping to give you a center of gravity whether you’re at rest or moving your limbs: Just as a ballerina uses her center of gravity to keep her balance as she spins across the floor, you draw upon your core strength whenever you walk, sit, exercise or perform pretty much any activity.

Because many of your body’s movements originate from your core, working toward improving its strength will enhance your posture, spinal alignment, stability and more. Researchers continue to study the various ways core strength improves health and wellbeing. Here are a few of the proven benefits of having a strong center.

  • Alleviates Back Pain: Research shows that people with weak core muscles have an increased risk of back ache and injury, since they lack adequate spine support. Core-strengthening exercises and core-engaging workouts, like yoga and Pilates, can help reduce discomfort, improve mobility and improve support for the spine in people with both acute and chronic pain.
  • Improves Posture: Core-strengthening exercises work all of the muscles of the torso from top to bottom and front to back, helping you stand tall with your limbs in alignment. By improving posture you decrease your risk of disc herniation and vertebrae degeneration. Another benefit to better posture? Better breathing. That same balance that helps you stand up straight also opens your airway, making inhalations and exhalations easier.
  • Better Athletic Performance: You’d be hard-pressed to find a sport that doesn’t rely on core strength for performance. For example, core exercises can keep runners’ legs and arms from tiring quickly. Rowers engage their cores as they paddle; a stronger core allows them to pull harder and faster. Baseball pitchers get the power for their curveballs as much from their cores as they do their arms—maybe more. Your core is the link between your upper and lower body, it is what allows a golfer to swing the club to strike his ball, or a tennis player to serve and optimize her racquet speed. It’s critical to sports performance.
  • Improved Balance: Poor balance is a complicated condition, but lower body weakness, vestibular dysfunction and neurological deficits are often contributing factors. Studies have shown that dynamic balance improves as core strength increases.
  • Safer Everyday Movement: Daily tasks—such as maintaining balance on an icy sidewalk, carrying groceries, hoisting children and walking up a steep flight of stairs—are easier and less likely to result in an injury when you core is strong. Not only do you have better control of your muscles, but you can more easily find your center if you’re caught off-balance. In addition, being able to rely on a strong core will make it less likely that you’ll overtax other muscles.

How Can You Build Core Strength?
Core work is different from strength-training programs that isolate a single muscle group. Instead, they challenge as many muscles as possible in integrated, coordinated movements. Core moves should engage your entire body, from head to toe.

Yoga and Pilates are great for working your core because the postures target those muscle groups. If you’re new to these activities, don’t be surprised if you wake up the day after a workout with aches in your lower belly, as well as your lower and upper back. Those are your core muscles waving hello and thanking you for spending some time strengthening them.

There are countless other activities to strengthen your core, from swimming to cycling to kick boxing. You can also try some specific exercises, whether that’s classic sit-ups or plyometric moves…the list goes on. Talk to your trainer or exercise physiologist about a routine that’s right for you. It may be helpful to have an expert show you how to do some moves with proper form, so you can do them safely and effectively on your own.

Here are just a few popular options:

Isometric Core Exercises: In these moves, you’ll hold a position for a period of time instead of contracting your muscles through a range of motion. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Plank: Hold your body at the top of a push-up position for up to 60 seconds. This very effective exercise can be done in a variety of ways and modified for your fitness level.
  • Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Slowly raise your hips off the floor, tightening your abdominal muscles as you go and holding your hips as high up as you can for up to 60 seconds.

Fitness Ball Core Exercises: These are the large balls you see people sitting on at the gym. Though they may look like daycare toys, they provide serious benefits to grown-ups who sit or recline on them when doing core moves, like crunches. The instability forces your body to engage both large and small muscles. Here’s an example:

  • Back Extension: Position your fitness ball under your hips and lower stomach. Walk your feet out until your knees are straight or close to it. Put your hands behind your head and lift your chest off the ball until your body makes a straight line. Repeat 10 to 12 times.

Dynamic Core Workouts: These workouts involve constant motion. Depending on the routine, you may move from side-to-side, up and down or in all different directions (sometimes while holding a weight, medicine ball or kettle bell). In other cases, you’ll simply be doing workout moves while fighting against instability—a wobbly surface or a balancing act on one leg, for example. These can really get your heart rate going, too. Here’s an example:

  • Stand on the half-ball side of a Bosu® ball with your feet hip-width apart and a slight bend in your knees and your arms extended up toward the ceiling. Drop your hips as though you’re lowering yourself into a chair until your thighs are close to parallel to the floor. Hold for a second, then return to your start position. Repeat 10 to 12 times.

Try to make time for three 10- to 15-minute core-strengthening sessions each week. It may be challenging at first, but stick with it. Once you begin strengthening your core, you will notice an improvement in the way you look, feel and move through your day.

Mindful Breathing
Use this technique during your meditation practice to develop a new relationship with ...
Read More
Aiming for Your Healthy Weight
These tools can help determine where you stand
Read More
Strengthen Your Core on a Ball
Mix things up with this challenging core workout
Read More
The Health and Body Benefits of Pilates
Pilates improves posture, prevents muscle imbalances and back pain and even boosts mood
Read More
Body Bar: The No-Machine Strength Workout
Easy to use with plenty of exercises to choose from, this tool may just become a ...
Read More
Pilates Tones and Strengthens
Precise moves—not dozens of reps—are the key to a strong body
Read More
5 Key Practices to Remember When You Exercise
These details can be easy to overlook—but here’s why they’re important
Read More
At-Home Fitness Equipment: Our Top Picks
You don’t need a lot of equipment to get a great workout
Read More
Cardio Machines: Get Your Best Workout
Not-so-common knowledge about your favorite calorie-burning machines
Read More
5 Simple Seated Stretches
Get that ahhh feeling as you release tension and soothe your muscles and joints
Read More
6 “This-or-That” Fitness Questions Answered
Take the guesswork out of your workout and make it time well spent
Read More
5 Yoga Poses for a Stronger Spine
This practice can strengthen your spine and help you stand tall and pain-free
Read More
Use Your Own Bodyweight to Strength Train
10 exercises you can do anytime, anywhere—no equipment required
Read More
Your Workout Back-Up Plan
What to do when circumstances get in the way of your original intentions
Read More
Fitness Trackers: Motivation Through Technology
Logging your exercise sessions with technology can help you reach your goals
Read More
Book Online or Contact Us
Book Now Contact Us

Questions & Reservations

Tucson, Arizona +1 800 742 9000
Lenox, Massachusetts +1 800 742 9000
Kaplankaya, Turkey
SpaClub®, Las Vegas +1 877 220 2688
Groups: +1 877 862 0583
SpaClub®, At Sea Queen Mary 2: +1 866 860 4662
Oceania Cruises: +1 877 329 1924
Regent Seven Seas: +1 877 329 1924
Celebrity Cruises: +1 844 860 4662