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Core Muscles and Core Strength, Page 2

Traditional abdominal exercises, like that ever-popular crunch, develop the rectus abdominis, but are not necessarily the most effective ways to develop the other core muscles. The exercises that really target the core are the ones where you are moving your limbs and keeping your abdomen stable. Pilates, which has quite a few moves that do just that, is a very effective way to work your core. Any exercise that requires balance also brings the core muscles into play. The stability, or balance ball is an excellent tool for working your core muscles - you are forced to balance on the ball while exercising, and that engages your core. Try doing a crunch with your back lying against a stability ball - not so easy, is it? Make it even harder by lifting one leg off the floor while you crunch! Of course, you aren't limited to just doing crunches on the ball - there are dozens and dozens more exercises, and there are many videos and books that can help in putting together a routine. Since core strength is a hot topic these days, many gyms are offering classes that focus on this muscle group. If you are a gym member, take advantage of any core classes it might have.

(Article continued below.)

When developing your core strength, here are a few things to remember. Your core is a group of muscles so you must have a balanced approach to them all. You need both a strong back and strong abs - having one area weak will result in poor posture and back problems. Your obliques come into play every time you turn around, so don't neglect them, either. Whatever way you choose to work your core, always use proper form. Improper form will diminish the effectiveness of the exercise - if you must decrease the range of motion to keep your form good, then do so. Because of the number of muscles that make up the core, it's best to do a number of different exercises, not just one or two - that way, you'll hit all or most of them. Change the routine often to keep them challenged. Also vary the type of exercises you do to offer different challenges - for example, a moving exercise like the bicycle (while lying on your back, bend one leg to the opposite elbow, then alternate with the other leg and elbow) hits your core one way; a static exercise like Plank Pose affects it differently.

Spend time with your core muscles and you'll stand straighter, look leaner and feel stronger. You'll hit balls father and when you reach middle age your back will be a lot less likely to go out. Strength training is about more than just appearances - it's about gaining and keeping health. And the best place to start, if you want to stay strong and healthy, is the core.

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