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If You Want A Stronger Core, Fix Your Shoulders & Hips!

Everyone wants a “stronger core”. In fact, I want a stronger core! But the core is a contentious topic. So I will try to keep it simple. The core is not just your abdominal muscles. Your core is a dynamic complex of all muscles that work to stabilize your body during movement. So when you think about it this way, your shoulders, your back muscles, your hip flexors, and your glutes are all a part of your core. Even your feet!

In fact, when I tell someone during a session that they should “feel it in their core”, what I really am saying is, “You should feel all your muscles working together as one unit right now to stabilize you, beginning from your center and radiating outward”. I don’t mean that they should be “squeezing their abs in”.

You can flex & squeeze your abs all you want, but there are other more effective ways to ensure that you are actually strengthening your “core”. Plus, this excessive tensing can actually be counterproductive and trick your body into thinking you are in danger, which actually results in the creation of pain, particularly when dealing with back pain.

A strong core is a powerful asset because it keeps us balanced, enables us to produce force & control it, it prevents injury, and so on. I’d like to think the core is really just a concise way of referring to the entirety of your body, working as one efficient machine. If you have a strong core, you have a well-rounded, balanced body. And this is what gets rid of and prevents back pain!

It has nothing to do with abs or six-packs. In fact, when i had my most well-defined abs, my body was actually beginning to fall apart on me – because I wasn’t taking care of my hips or shoulders!

So, in order to strengthen this innocuous complex of our body, we have to fix the primary issues we tend to see in our bodies today. We tend to see similar issues, because most people tend to live a similar, sedentary lifestyle, lacking certain, critical movements. fortunately, there are some really simple ways to resolve these issues!

Let’s first examine what’s going on in our bodies, and then introduce 4 fundamental exercises which will help to restore balance in your body. [Please note – there are of course deviations from this, but these are the most commonly seen issues]

THE ISSUES:

Tight hips, underactive glutes, shifted pelvis, excessive arching in low back, rounded shoulders.

Let’s break it down further.

Most of us have extremely tight hip flexor muscles, as a result of sitting. These muscles become stuck in a shortened position, which makes them tight.

Then, this shortened position of the hip flexors causes an anterior pelvic shift (think of sticking your butt out – that’s what this looks like).

This shortened position of the hip flexors also makes it difficult for us to activate our glutes (this is because the primary function of the major glute muscle is hip extension, which is the opposite of hip flexion. so too much hip flexion = too little hip extension = sleepy, underactive glutes). I know, that was a mouthful.

The anterior pelvic shift then typically correlates with an excessively arched low back.

And on top of all of this, our shoulders become stuck in a forward, rounded position due to all this sitting.

This may not always be the sequence of events, but once you have acquired one of these issues, the others will naturally occur. This is because the body is one kinetic chain, so if one thing is out of place, something else will naturally shift out of place as well. When this happens, our “core” is definitely not working optimally to keep us stable, balanced & powerful! Everything is out of alignment and out of whack, which makes any movement much more difficult.

The good news is, there are really simple, really powerful exercises you can do for about 3-5 minutes a day that will enable you to maintain a strong core, and a balanced body for the rest of your life!

The exercises are below – they are links to YouTube videos and under the video in the “Description” there are specific instructions on how to perform each exercise.

EXERCISES TO FIX HIPS & SHOULDERS FOR A STRONGER CORE:

THE MORAL OF THE STORY:

The moment I stopped excessively doing sit-ups and other “core exercises”, and started actually taking a look at what was going on in the entirety of my body, at the joint level, my “core” began to regain it’s strength. I felt so much more enabled to do any movement I wanted with ease. We must take care of every part of our body. Again, because everything is connected, we must take care of everything in order to have a truly strong, functioning core. The good news is, all it takes are a couple of well-executed, simple movements to begin to restore your strength!

Give these a try and let me know if you start feeling more balanced, more powerful & more capable of doing any crazy movement/exercise/activity you want! I would love to hear from you!


To learn more about Melanie Daly and her personal training, please visit her website: http://www.backpainpersonaltrainer.com/

Your New Favorite Gym Routine

Raise your hand if you’ve gone to the gym and done the same exact workout day in and day out. (My hand is up!) It is quite common that we head to the gym with the right intentions, but get stuck in the same old routine. For me, it was 30 minutes on the treadmill, 50 squats, and a set of ab exercises. I’m not saying this is bad, but switching up your workouts every day ensures that you not only get a more even full-body workout but also targets new muscles that you may not even know you aren’t hitting (or even know existed)!

Courtesy of our trainer Ken Yu, we’ve got a new workout to incorporate into our weekly gym routine. Pick up those dumbells, because we are starting with a dumbbell routine and then heading over to the machines!

Young caucasian woman doing exercises on fitness machine in gym. Female using rowing machine at fitness club.
3 Rounds With Dumbbells:
15 DB Romanian Deadlift
15 DB Chest Press (Bench or Floor)
15 DB Squats
15 DB Bent-Over Rows
15-30s Plank Hold

Machines:
3×10 Chest Press
3×10 Cable Row
3×10 Single Leg Press
3×10 Hamstring Curl

Show us your progress and workouts on Instagram by tagging us (@Lyfebulb) and using the hashtag #Exercise Regularly!

Balance Training

Balance has to do with our ability to stay in one position for a given period of time without moving. It sounds silly because how often do any of us actually do this? Balance training is more important than just teaching us how to stand still with our eyes closed.

yoga on the beach, healthy lifestyle concept

However when we practice standing on one foot, eyes open or closed, we learn how to use gravity, environmental feedback, cues from our feet, and what we see to train the muscles in our body. Balance training also involves strengthening core muscles and muscles around joints. By learning where our bodies are in space and improving joint stability, we are better able to sense which muscles are needed to activate or deactivate to keep joints in proper alignment when moving. This improves coordination, athletic skill, and posture, which prevent falls and muscle strains, decreasing the likelihood of injuries.  

Wonder where to start? First, test your balance. Stand close enough to a wall that you can use it for support. Stare at a spot on a static object in front of you and slowly shift your weight onto one foot while lifting the other off of the ground. If you feel yourself falling, place your foot back on the ground or your hand on the wall. If this is challenging, continue to practice this on both sides.

If you feel comfortable doing this, try walking heel to toe in a straight line. You can slowly progress to walking lunges and using props to help improve your balance. Simply sitting on an Indo Board, Physioball, or BOSU balance trainer will strengthen your core muscles by challenging your balance. Once you develop greater balance, you can begin to stand on an Indo Board and BOSU trainer, then take that one step further and use these props for dynamic exercises, for example doing squats on a BOSU trainer.

Getting into exercise for the first time or after a long hiatus? This is the place to start. Balance training is the best way to get to know your body and become conscious of where it is in space.

If you are currently active, return your focus to balance training. Combine balance exercises with flexibility, endurance, and strength training to improve overall physical fitness. But first, consult with a doctor, physical therapist, or a well-educated personal trainer to make sure your body is up for the challenge.

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