How to See Results From Your Core Workouts Even Sooner

The following post was originally featured on The Fitnessista and written by Gina H., who is part of POPSUGAR Select Fitness.

Summer is officially here, which means social media is flooded with reminders to train our core to reduce back pain and improve posture! (Except not at all. It’s telling us to work on our “bikini body” which means . . . put a bikini on your body. That’s all you need to do.)

In all seriousness, core training is an integral component of any balanced fitness plan. Not only does it help stabilize us in everyday movements, but like I mentioned before, a strong core can improve posture, reduce back pain, and decrease the risk of injuries from lack of stabilization.

Some tips for core training:

You can train your core anywhere. Sit up tall, lift up your chest and drop your shoulders down and back. Now, think about bracing your core and draw in the spot two inches below your belly button towards your spine. Hold for 10 seconds. Rest for three to five seconds and repeat. Sneaky core training! You can do this driving, at the office, watching TV, or during overdrawn conversations.Make sure to train all components of the core. This is not just your crunching six-pack muscles (rectus abdominis). I like to think of the core as our entire trunk: everything but our arms and legs. In your core training, be sure to include some transverse abdominis work (like planking), oblique training (like Russian twists), back work (deadlifts and supermans), and if you’re an extra credit type person, pelvic floor strengthening (hi, kegels) and glute exercises (like bridges and squats).

It’s typical to train the core as a moving muscle, but that’s not how we functionally use the core in everyday life. The core’s main job is stabilization. We do a lot of deadlifts during the day (especially if you have a tendency to drop things like yours truly), squats (sitting to standing), stabilizing (all day!) and rotations. Think about how the exercises you choose will mimic and strengthen the movements for everyday activities.

Implementing core training in your routine:

You do not need to train your core every day. The muscles in your core are just that: muscles. Like all other muscles, they need time to rest and recover. You are already “accidentally” working your core every day, so for dedicated exercises, I would recommend every other day, max.Include a mixture of isolation work, unilateral work (training one side and then the other, either using kettlebells or a dumbbell), standing core work (I have a workout here!) and functional movements like medicine-ball slams and woodchops.Change it up! A good rule of thumb is if you did it last time, don’t do it this time. By constantly changing your routine, you will keep your body guessing and fight plateaus. Play with sets, reps, and various types of exercises.Plank wisely. The plank can become a total-body exercise because after 10 or so seconds our other muscles kick in to support our bodyweight. If you want your plank to only work your core, rest for three seconds after planking for 10 and repeat.Add in a balance component. Challenging balance is a great way to kick in the deep core stabilizing muscles, and also work on proprioception (nerve responses to tell our body where it’s located in space, which can help prevent falls as we age). An easy way to add a balance component: try variations of the exercises on a stability ball, BOSU, or standing on one leg.

For visible results:

When my core has looked its strongest (you know, when there isn’t a human inside), four things were happening all at the same time:

Extremely clean eatsDrinking alcohol once or twice a week (instead of the nightly glass of vino)HIIT workouts two to three times a weekConsistent strength training

That’s it! Usually how often you train your core will not have a huge visible impact, but train your core for health, stabilization, posture, injury prevention and the countless other benefits. (And because it’s fun!)

Image Source: The Fitnessista