Strengthening the core of the body helps maintain spine health, prevents back pain, encourages good posture, and helps the body function more efficiently. Learning how to tone abs helps develop the body core, giving you a lighter step, an improved posture, and a better ability to perform everyday tasks without difficulty or injury.
The Importance of the Body Core
Core muscles are those around the trunk and pelvis. These muscles are, unfortunately, often ignored in many fitness or weight loss plans. Sure, many plans might encourage sit ups or push ups here and there, but concentrated core work is often left for bodybuilders seeking six-pack abs.
Strengthening the core of the body, though, is important to overall fitness. A strong core helps the back, abdomen, hips and pelvis all work together more smoothly and efficiently, increasing your ability to perform other exercises, as well as sports activities and general, everyday tasks. In addition, even if you lose a significant amount of weight, if your core muscles remain flabby, you’ll still look flabby. Core exercises won’t burn the fat off the belly, but they’ll help keep the underlying muscles tight while your regular aerobic routine melts off the fat.
Some good reasons to work on the core muscles are:
- Core muscle strength improves stability and balance
- Core muscles help support the spine, preventing back pain and injury
- Core muscles also help support the internal organs
Spending part of your workout time on this vital area will pay off in a slimmer silhouette and a more confident posture.
Exercises to Tone Abs and Other Core Muscles
One effective way to tone the abs is with that old standby–crunches. It’s important to perform crunches correctly to avoid straining the back, but properly performed crunch reps can rapidly tighten and strengthen the abdominal muscles. Push ups also work the core. Until your abdominal and lower back muscles become strong enough, perform push ups with your knees on the floor instead of pushing up from the toes.
An advantage of core exercises is that many effective exercises in this family don’t require special equipment. However, core work can benefit from use of a balance ball. Just sitting on a balance ball requires your core muscles to put in considerable effort to keep from falling off. Once you are able to effectively hold your balance on the ball, you can graduate to more complicated exercises. With your hands behind your head, circle your hips on the ball, first in one direction, then the other. You can start with your hands on the ball if balance proves a challenge.
Pilates for Core Strength
Another type of exercises that is excellent for working the core muscles is pilates. Focused largely on balance, toning and strength building, pilates can be performed at home or in a class, with or without extra equipment depending on your approach and individual goals. For intensive core work that also tends and tones the rest of the body, pilates is an excellent choice, as is yoga.
It might seem difficult to add something new to your exercise routing, but core exercises will pay off in the long run, so find some exercises you enjoy and get started on tightening those abs.