Training the core muscles involves a lot more than just ‘working the abs’ or trying to get a flat stomach. And sit-ups aren’t the way to achieve this. They are just one tool in a whole box that we can use.

Posture, balance and strength are all dependent on a strong core. Also breathing patterns, which will then affect every other system in your body that requires oxygen. So it’s all linked!

Activate the core muscles.

This can be done at any time of the day, not just before a workout. I tend to do it first thing in the morning, and after any period of time I’ve been sitting down for too long and I feel I’ve become ‘lazy’.

Set the Pelvis

Stand with your feet under your shoulders, not too wide. Imagine your pelvis is a bucket of water; tip it forward and backwards a few times as if your ‘emptying the bucket’ then relax.

Activate the pelvic floor

This is the muscle we used to control our bladder. So just imagine you need to go to the toilet and are holding it in. Do this a few times and relax.

Grow tall

Imagine there is a rope attached to the top of your head, with someone pulling it, making you stand nice and tall.
That’s it. Now your core is activated and ‘awake’, ready to support the body in any activity.

What about sit-ups?

To demonstrate the inefficiency of sit-ups, stand up and place your hand on your stomach.
Now bend at the hip. You will feel that during this movement, similar to a sit-up, your abs hardly contract.

Now with you hand still on your stomach, lean back to the point of being unbalanced. Your core muscles have all just contracted to stop you falling over haven’t they? They are far more effective doing this sort of movement than old-school sit-ups.

The core also stabilises our body every time we do weight lifting exercises, so standing tall and engaging the pelvic floor will mean you will be able to squeeze those extra reps out!

Core stability exercises

training the core muscles2


Get in the press-up position, with your elbows on the floor. Keep your feet together and maintain a straight line through the spine from the head. To make it harder, try adding weight, just below your shoulders.

Russian Twists

Get in the sit-up position, knees together and you upper body about 45 degrees off the floor. With a medicine ball or other weight in both hands, transfer the weight from side to side, keeping you head and lower body as still as possible. Make this harder by taking your feet off the ground.

Pertubated plank

Get a training partner to try and move your pelvis from side to side, up and down, offering resistance and unbalancing you as you try to keep as still as possible.

Swiss ball ‘stir the pot’

In the plank position with your elbows up on a Swiss ball and your hands together.
Imagine you have a wooden spoon in your hands and rotate at the elbows, drawing an imaginary circle. Start with 5 circles in each direction then 4, 3, 2, 1. If you want to make this harder go back up to 5!

Round the world

Another plank exercise, this time you will lift each limb off the floor one at a time, starting with your left hand, then right hand, right leg, left leg.

These are 4 of the most effective core exercises that you need only do once or twice a week. I do these as part of my GB kayak-training program where core strength gives you the edge over other competitors and bad strength means you take a swim!

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