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Strengthening Your Core with Stretching

When you think of strengthening your core, you may think of hours spent at the gym. In reality, the best way to begin building core muscle strength is to start doing manageable exercises at home, especially with stretches that double as strengthening exercises.

 

What are your core muscles?

“The core consists of the muscles surrounding your trunk, including your abdominals, obliques, diaphragm, pelvic floor, trunk extensors, and hip flexors.” – Healthline.

 

Ab and core muscle diagram

 

Why should I strengthen my core?

With a stronger core, you’ll be able to improve your posture and provide more support for your spine. Picking items off the floor and getting back up will become easier. You may also notice improved bladder control and an easier time breathing!

Like any muscle, you can strengthen your core muscles by actively using it more than daily life. When you push your muscles even slightly beyond normal use, you create microtears. This is why you’ll feel sore for a few days after intense exercise, but as your body heals, it repairs those microtears and strengthens the muscle.

 

Strengthening your core with stretching.

These are a handful of stretches that can help you to strengthen your core while increasing your overall range of motion. If you would prefer a less-thinking, more-guided approach, try the strengthening routines available on WeStretch. These strengthening routines encourage functional movement on a level that is suited to every fitness level!

 

Standing poses

If you’re just starting out, these are great beginner core exercises. Be sure to have a table or something sturdy to use for balance if you need it.

Stand with your arms bend with your hands begin your head. Engage your core to keep your posture straight.

Lift your leg in all directions, while balancing on the other one. This will enhance your balance and your core strength, while stretching out your hip, leg, and lower back muscles.

Tilt and rotate your torso. You will feel your stomach and back muscles engage to keep you upright as you tilt to the right and left.

 

Ada in her pink tracksuit tilting her torso to the side.

 

Cat pose

Start on all fours, with your hands placed directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Keep your head and neck in a comfortable, neutral position.

From here, lift one arm off the ground so that it is parallel with your ear. This provides a great stretch for your shoulder and rotator cuff, while engaging your core to keep you stabilized.

Similar to your arms, lift one leg off the ground. For variations, try sliding it behind your body, out to the side, or bend it towards your chest.

 

Ada in cat pose, lifting her leg to the side to strengthen her core

 

Touch your toes

First, just bending down to touch your toes (or as far as you can) and slowly coming back up without falling over is a great goal to achieve.

If you’re looking for additional motions, try raising one of your legs behind you to be parallel with your torso. Try clasping your hands behind your back and allowing them to fall forward, using gravity to enhance the motion.

 

Ada bending to touch her toes while extending one of her legs up behind her.

 

Lunges

Both forward facing lunges and side lunges are great for building strong core muscles by engaging them to maintain your balance.

While in a lunge position, tilt and rotate your torso to stretch different muscles, as well as lean forward and back. These are great foundational stretches, but when you’re starting off, don’t hesitate to hold onto something to prevent falling over.

 

Ada doing a lunge with her arms extended above her head.

 

Planks

While planks and bridges are known for their full body and core strengthening, they can also offer some great stretches.

Try lifting your hands or legs off the ground, moving your hands further apart or closer together, or even stretching your neck in different positions.

Keep in mind, though, that if sustaining a full plank is too hard on your body, doing a plank from your knees can be just as effective!

 

Ada doing a plank with one of her legs extended up.

 

Fun activities that also engage your core!

While you will see the most results with targeted core exercise and stretching, here are a few other activities that can also work on your core muscles.

 

Laughter.

Do you remember the last time you laughed so hard at a joke or a movie and your stomach hurt after? The soreness you feel after laughing is from the microtears from your core muscles working hard.

This means, by laughing more often, not only will you improve the quality of your life, but you might even get a six pack out of it! 😉

 

Singing.

Singing, especially classical or choral singing, involves a lot of breath and muscle control. By singing regularly, you can strengthen your diapragm and your surrounding muscles.

 

Fear.

While this may not be seen as a “fun” activity, when you are scared, your muscles tense up. If you are scared often enough or for long enough, such as watching an intense horror film, this fear can improve your core strength. That being said, if your fear is stemming from sources out of your control, then it might be best to talk to someone to address your concerns.

 

Tips on gaining core strength.

  • You won’t develop a six-pack of abs overnight. However, you can start making small efforts today that will have big results later.
  • Instead of doing longer sessions, incorporate more regular and frequent small sessions. It is easier on your body and you’ll be more likely to create the habit.
  • Find a methodology and stick with it. While variety in your exercise is nice, switching every time won’t guarantee you results. A while back, Tik Tok had a stomach dance challenge, and the reason this worked for many people was that it allowed them to make a small, consistent effort, and they were rewarded with positive results because of it.

 

 

Any links included are for reference, additional information, or entertainment value only, without monetary compensation. Contact us on social media or at team@westretch.ca.  Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

This article is not intended to act as or replace medical advice. Please talk to your health care practitioner if you have any concerns.

 

Written by Kayla Willsey