Here’s the easiest way to fire up more muscles while working out. By Estelle Low
Engaging your core will help to reduce your risk of injuries. Photo: ammentorp / 123rf.com
Gym goers, listen up. Whether you’re lifting weights in HIIT class or doing your own bodyweight exercises, there’s one important thing to do: Engage your core.
Doing so activates the major muscles that are responsible for maintaining a good posture: your abs, obliques, lower back and many other deeper muscles that power you through a workout and protect you from injuries.
Also, the more muscles you work, the stronger they get, and the more kcal you’ll burn.
To engage your core, many trainers use this analogy: Imagine blowing a balloon. You’ll have to summon enough strength from your core to send air out of your mouth. In doing so, your midsection naturally tightens. That’s how it should feel when you activate your core muscles.
The thing is, it can be hard to tell if you’re engaging your core properly, especially during fast movements like jump squats and kettlebell swings.
One quick fix, according to Sara May, an instructor at TripleFit Singapore, is to break your exercise into two parts: the easy and the challenging. Inhale during the easy part; exhale during the challenging part.
“The toughest part is when you use the most energy, like rising from a squat. That’s when you should exhale, as you’ll be activating your core and avoid hurting your lower back at the same time,” says Sara.
Sounds doable. Of course, this applies more to strength-based exercises than cardio ones. (You can’t coordinate your breathing with your strides during a run!)
So try these at your next workout: At the rowing machine, exhale at the pull. During a dumbbell press, exhale when pushing the weight up. In a push-up, exhale when coming up. When doing the Superman exercise, exhale when you’re lifting your chest, arms and legs off the floor, then inhale to return.
You’ll be sure to engage your core right, and do those exercises more efficiently!