Get core-strong for your next hike!
Increasing your core strength will help you walk further and enjoy your next Life’s An Adventure pack-free guided walk.
Many of you may think of your core as strong, toned abs, but abdominal muscles are only part of the story. Experts refer to the core as the many different muscles that run the entire length of the torso.
When these muscles contract, they stabilise the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle and create a solid base of support. Just think of the torso as the body’s centre of power and you’ll understand what we’re getting at.
The core muscles make it possible to stand upright and move on two feet. These muscles help control movements, transfer energy, shift body weight and move in any direction. A strong core distributes the stresses of weight-bearing and protects the back. In the outdoors this means a strong core will help you walk further and – if required – carry more.
When walking on any track that twists and turns – name a track that doesn’t!? – your core will simply ‘switch on’. Upper body and core strength are often under-rated when preparing for any trek. Any pack you carry from a day pack to a large rucksack, this load is totally supported by your lower back and abdominal muscles (core).
So with this in mind, try these top core exercises to help you go further on your next bushwalk.
Side plank: The side plank requires a bit more balance but is another great core strength exercise.
Bicycle abs: Lie face up and place your hands behind your head, lightly supporting it with your fingers. Bring the knees in to the chest and lift the shoulder blades off the floor without pulling on the neck. Rotate to the left, bringing the right elbow towards the left knee as you straighten the other leg. Switch sides, bringing the left elbow towards the right knee.
Standing calf raises: This can be done with one or both feet. The exercise is performed by raising the heel as far as possible. As with squats, weights are commonly included in the exercise but it’s also effective with body weight alone. Balance may become a difficulty with free-standing calf raises, especially on one leg, so use your walking pole as support.
Squats: Squats are considered a vital exercise for increasing the strength and size of the legs and buttocks, as well as developing core strength. Squats work the muscles of the thighs, hips and buttocks, quads and hamstrings, as well as strengthening the bones, ligaments and insertion of the tendons throughout the lower body.
Lying straight leg raises: This is another great ab exercise. Start with raising each straight leg alternately and then move on to raising both legs at the same time. It’s a help to have your hands on the ground, by your side.
Foot drop-offs: Physios give this exercise to people who are recovering from injured knees, ankles and calves. Great for your balance and your core, the goal is to get your raised heel as low as possible to the ground. However, it’s important your hips remain parallel to the ground and not leaning to one side.
Elbow plank: The plank works your entire core. Lie down on your stomach. Lift your body off the floor with your forearms (elbows at 90°) and your toes. Keep your body in a straight position (without arching your back) and hold for 30 seconds to one minute. Lift one foot in the air for added difficulty.