The core is the most important area of the body to strengthen. It provides the foundation to support and stabilize the body. There are many exercises to choose from when it comes to core strengthening, some are better than others. Here are five common mistakes when doing exercises for the core and how to correct them.
Only doing crunches and sit ups to build the core- These exercises target the rectus abdominis muscles (the "six pack" muscles). They generate a lot of flexion in the core and can actually worsen posture by pulling the body into a more forward position. Incorporating exercises that resist flexion and emphasize the deeper transverse abdominis muscles will actually make the body resist flexion and promote lengthening of the spine. Examples of lengthening exercises are planks and birddogs, where the body is being stabilized from the center without a large amount of flexion.
Not working on the pelvic floor muscles - This is key when doing any core exercise. Activating the transverse abdominis muscles and incorporating the pelvic floor in core exercises will help build the strength and stability around the pelvis and will help protect the lower back. Practicing Kegel exercises (imagine stopping the flow of urine mid-stream) will also connect you more deeply to the muscles in your TA. A great example of a TA exercise is bridging and marching.
Doing heavy twisting exercises to work the obliques. The core is actually designed to resist twisting in order to protect the spine. A better option is to keep the abdominals braced and neutral posture while resisting twisting forces. A good example of this types of exercises are a single-arm carry, anti-rotational chops, and Paloff presses.
Not training the core in any other plane than the saggital plane- The saggital plane divides the body in half front and back. The body moves in a dynamic way and it transfers force in a variety of angles (side to side, diagonally, anti rotation, etc. Side planks and chops are great examples of training the core in a variety of ways.
Not paying attention to diet - the saying "Abs are made in the kitchen" is a key factor in building and developing strong abs. In order to develop definition in the abdominal area, the amount of visceral fat that is carried around the belly needs to be reduced. In order to drop body fat, it is important to eat healthy, Whole Foods and choose lean sources of protein, a lot of vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats in your diet. Ail for a caloric deficit of approximately 500 calories a day to lose body fat.