An exercise ball is one of the best ways to build core strength.

How to Combat Pain with Core Strength

With so much emphasis on sculpted arms and legs, the core may be neglected. But paying some attention to your oft-forgotten middle reaps a host of benefits. A standard core workout like this one from Kaiser Permanente can do wonders for your posture and balance, and helps prevent a host of ills that come with aging.

When choosing your workout,make sure to incorporate exercises that give equal attention to all the major muscles in your abdomen, including the internal and external obliques and the transverse abdominals. And remember, you don’t have to go to the gym to get a strong core; many popular sports and fitness activities work your core as hard – or harder – than the standard gym routine.

Benefits of a Strong Core

  • Power Up Your Posture: A weak midsection often leads to a slouched spine and poor posture. With a stable core, you’re able to sit up, stand up, and move around more comfortably and efficiently.
  • Overcome Back Pain: Constant lower-back pain is often related to a weak core. Once you start engaging your muscles and boosting the endurance and stability of your core muscles, you may be waving good-bye to that ache.
  • Prevent Everyday Injuries: Whether you’re trying a kettlebell class, carrying heavy bags, or moving your couch across the room, a strong core helps keep your whole body safe.

Best Ways to Build Core Strength

If crunches are the first thing you think of when it comes to core strength, think again. Crunches do contribute to core strength, but they’re more about the upper abs, and real core strength goes deeper than that. (Hence the name.) Here are five surefire routes to a strong core.

  1. Stability ball routine: It’s not called a stability ball for nothing; there’s no more efficient way to work all the abdominal muscles together than to do these exercises while balancing on a ball.
  2. Yoga: From plank to cat/cow, yoga has numerous asanas, or poses, perfectly designed to tone core and pelvic floor muscles.
  3. Stand-up paddleboarding: Maintaining your balance on a moving board requires constant engagement of your abdominal core.
  4. Pilates: The mat routine known as the “Pilates 100” is all about core strength, as is the spine-rounding exercise of rolling like a ball.
  5. Rowing: One look at a crew team and you can see the core strength required; join a team yourself or use one of the rowers at the gym.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.