Boost Your Core Strength II: Do Yoga
Yoga is well-known for being one of the best methods for developing flexilbity. People who do yoga for several hours a day soon reach levels only equalled by gymnasts and ballet dancers. What is less well-known is that yoga, at least some kinds of yoga, are exceptionally good for developing core strength.
For those interested, you should really be aiming to do Ashtanga yoga, which is also quite a good cardio workout. Ashtanga is a fast-flowing variety of yoga in which there is a lot of jumping between the positios, as shown in this video (I've posted this before, but if you haven't seen it and you want to see what real core strength and flexibility is, watch it):
YouTube - ashtanga yoga demo
There are actually several ways that yoga works on core strength, which I will explain.
1. Straightening the spine when forward bending
You may notice that when you bend forward your back naturally bends. When you bend forward with an asymmetrical base (e.g. if you have one leg tucked in) you bend and one shoulder goes down much further than the other. In yoga, you have to straighten this out. Doing this requires considerable core strength- so you are basically working your core in every forward bend.
I see people doing forward-bends and letting their spines collapse all the time. It always saddens me, as these people are wasting an opporuntity to add a core strength element to their strength.
2. Doing crazy balancing
No other word for it. Stuff like this requires great core strength:
(I chose three that I can do myself
3. Yoga abs
Yoga actually has lots of abs exercises, and they are very effective. Like this one:
But like a lot of yoga ab exercises, it does all of the abdominal muscles and the lower back, not just the exterior/visible ones. (Which is why most yoga guys have amazing core strength but not six packs.)
When you do some kinds of yoga (including Ashtanga) you have to do something Indian dudes called 'engaging your mulla bhandras'. Several thousand years later, western sports scientists rediscovered this and called it 'engaging your core'. Basically, you have to lift your abdominal muscles up and in. You also have to raise your pelvic floor, which requires flexing the muscle that you use when you don't want to pee yourself. Weirdly enough, this tones the insterior abdominal muscles. When you start it is difficult to do this for a long time. After a few years you get to the point where you can engage your core througout a two-hour workout without thinking about it.
This gives you a low-intensity core workout for the entire time you are stretching. It also gives you a high intensity workout when you bend backwards- this basically stretches your abdominal muscles in the other direction. Pulling them in and up when you are in this position:
is very, very difficult.
Go to Classes
If you want to do this, go to classes. Don't try to learn from a book or video. There is too much stuff that needs to be exactly right.