Core Exercises for Women
Core exercises for women that:
- Strengthen your deep abdominal core muscles
- Train your spinal, pelvic floor and trunk muscles
- Tone your abdomen (flatten your tummy)
- Provide safe alternatives to intense core abdominal exercises
- Reduce your risk or pelvic floor overload
Core Exercises Videos and Information
What are Core Exercises?
Core exercises are voluntary contractions of the muscles surrounding the trunk that are known as the core muscles.
Core muscles include:
- Abdominal muscles
- Spinal muscles
- Pelvic floor muscles
Some intense core abdominal exercises are inappropriate for women who are at increased risk of pelvic floor problems. This is because they can increase downward pressure on the pelvic floor.
Women are more vulnerable than men to pelvic floor injury. This increased risk of pelvic floor injury results from pelvic floor weakness caused by female anatomy and life events such as pregnancy and menopause.
Benefits of Abdominal Core Exercises
Core abdominal exercises can have a number of benefits including:
Coordinating abdominal and pelvic floor muscles
Your innermost layer of abdominal muscles should contract with your pelvic floor muscles to help with bladder and bowel control.
Protecting and supporting your abdominal organs
Your abdominal muscles protect your abdominal organs and help to hold them in position.
Stabilizing your joints
Your innermost abdominal muscles wrap around your trunk and stabilize the joints in your spine and your pelvis.
Toning your abdomen
When your deep abdominal core muscles are activated they can flatten the appearance of your lower abdomen.
Abdominal Core Exercise Guidelines
- Learn to activate your core abdominal muscles using the correct technique
- Use a gentle activation technique and never too strong
- Start by contracting your deep abdominal muscles up to 10 seconds at a time
- Breathe normally throughout these exercises
- Practice activating your core muscles up to 10 times a day
- Perform your activation exercise when sitting, standing and then progress to walking
Inner Core Abdominal Muscles
Your abdominal muscles sit in layers at the front of your trunk extending between your rib cage and your pubic bone.
The deepest innermost layer of your abdominal muscles is Transverse Abdominis. These muscles wrap around your trunk just like a corset covering your abdomen that wraps around your waist and fastens at your spine.
Transverse Abdominis muscles support your abdomen, pelvis and spine.
When you start exercising these muscles it’s often difficult to find them and then activate them correctly.
Outer Core Abdominal Muscles
The outer abdominal muscles are the ‘6 pack’ or Rectus Abdominis and External Oblique muscles. These muscles sit in layers above the deeper core abdominal muscles and generate pressure in the abdomen, for example with coughing.
Pelvic floor problems such as pelvic prolapse symptoms and incontinence can worsen with intense abdominal core exercises.
For example, when you squeeze a toothpaste tube, pressure forces the toothpaste out of the tube. This is the same as strongly contracting your abdominal muscles. As a result pressure increases down onto your pelvic floor. If your pelvic floor isn’t strong enough to withstand this pressure it’s forced downwards and stretched.
Common Mistakes with Abdominal Core Exercises
1. Over Bracing
Some women over brace their abdominal muscles which means they contract these muscles too strongly. Over bracing your core abdominal muscles increases downward pressure onto your pelvic floor.
If you over brace your abdominal muscles you may need to learn how to relax your core muscles.
2. Holding your Breath
Holding your breath during core abdominal exercises doesn’t train your deep abdominal muscles to work normally during everyday tasks. Try to breathe normally during core abdominal exercises. Practicing deep breathing exercises can also help you relax your core abdominal muscles.
3. Poor Posture
Good upright posture is important for your core muscles to work well. Try to use good upright posture when you’re sitting and standing to encourage your core muscles to work as they should.
Strength and Core Workout DVD for Women
Strength & Core video is a pelvic floor friendly core exercise workout with Physiotherapist Michelle Kenway
This whole body workout strengthens your core abdominal and pelvic floor muscles in addition to whole body strength and posture training.
Available as immediate download or hard copy.
Strength & Core Workout includes exercises designed to:
- Exercise safely and avoid injury
- Train your core abdominal muscles
- Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles
- Tone your hips, butt and thighs
- Improve your posture with back strengthening
- Help you manage your body weight
- Stretch and relax after your core workout
- Sapsford R. & Hodges P. (2001) Contraction of the pelvic floor muscles during abdominal maneuvers Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Volume 82, Issue 8, August 2001, Pages 1081-1088.
- Barton A. Serrao C. Thompson J. Briffa K. (2015) Transabdominal ultrasound to assess pelvic floor muscle performance during abdominal curl in exercising women. International Urogynecology Journal. Volume 26, Issue 12, pp 1789–1795.