Nothing looks better, on a beach, than a well-toned set of abdominals – or a six pack if you prefer. Many would turn around and say that a person who has a good six pack has a strong core. However, if this is true it doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she has a strong core. Here’s why.
Six pack vs strong core
What is a ‘six pack’?
Your abdomen is made up of a number of muscles. These are:
- Transversus abdominis
- Rectus abdominis
- External obliques
- Internal obliques
It is the rectus abdominis, says fitness veteran Andrea Cespedes, which plays an integral part in the formation of a six pack:
“In every person, a strong tendon separates the right and left sides of the rectus abdominis and three tendon creases segment it horizontally. When you’re lean enough to have these separations show, you’re said to have six-pack abs.”
What does it mean to have a strong core?
Contrary to popular belief, having a six pack – or a flat-looking stomach – doesn’t mean that you necessarily have a strong core. Having a strong core means that all of your abdominal muscles – in other words your external obliques, internal obliques, transversus abdominus IN ADDITION TO your rectus abdominis – are super strong.
Exercises to strengthen your core
Pilates is a great way for you to strengthen your core. (Our recommendation is that if you want to embark on your Pilates journey, you need to choose a teacher who has a certificate in teaching Pilates from Trifocus Fitness Academy. To find out more about this dynamic Pilates teacher-training course, follow this link.) There are a number of exercises that we recommend you start with before you progress to more advanced moves.
This is a foundational Pilates exercise which helps the student to coordinate their breath and gives their abdominal muscles a great workout. Blood circulation is also improved greatly with this exercise.
How to do it
Lie on your back on the mat. Put your legs into table top with your feet flexed. Your arms must be extended on the mat with your palms facing down.
Inhale to prepare and as you exhale lift your head and shoulders off the mat as well as your arms so that they are level with your shoulders. Extend your legs as low as possible while keeping your lumbar spine in neutral. (If you feel any tension in your neck, rest your head on a pillow.)
For five counts pulse your arms vertically in time with your breath as you inhale. Repeat this action as you exhale. Repeat for 10 sets of 10 pulses.
Single leg stretch
Lie on your back on a mat. Your legs must be in table top. Rest your hands on either side of your knees and lift your head off the mat. Lift your upper body up towards your breast bone. (As with the hundred, if you find that keeping your head lifted off the floor is too painful, rest your head on a pillow.)
Inhale to prepare and as you exhale, keep your abdominals contracted and extend your right leg forward. Rest your hands on your left knee. Inhale and switch legs. Repeat the movement as many times as you need to.
Single leg circles
As with the previous two exercises lie on your back, on a mat. Your arms must be extended at your sides with the palms of your hands facing downwards. Ensure that your neck and head are in a neutral position.
Inhale, bend one of your legs and gently extend it straight up towards the ceiling. Exhale and circle it over the centre of your body. While you are doing this ensure that your hips don’t rock and you maintain your abdominal contraction. Circle this leg in one direction for five counts and then reverse the motion for five counts. Bend this leg and return to your starting position. Repeat with the other leg.
If you want to take your Pilates practice further and teach others how to perform these very beneficial exercises, why don’t you sign up for Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Pilates course. Armed with this qualification, you’ll be able to take your career in fitness to new heights.