How To Engage Your Core Before Lifting
Engaging your core is something that is incredibly important in any fitness regime, and something that you have most likely heard a couple of times. This is a common phrase in several workout videos, and instruction. But, how do you actually engage your core? What does it feel like?
To begin, your core is not only your ab muscles. There is a difference. Your core is your pelvis, lower back, hips, abdomen and what makes up your midsection. So, the first step is to understand that your core and abs are different. Your core is used to stabilize you.
The most common way of explaining how to engage your core is to imagine pulling your belly button toward your spine. However, the way that I like to describe it is to imagine someone is about to punch you and you flench to brace yourself. That's how you want your core to feel. Another way of describing this would be to cough and your core naturally engages before this. You should be able to feel the difference between engagement and non-engagement.
The issue when doing this is that many people will forget how to breathe. More times than one I will hear a client say "Oh, I was holding my breath" while doing ab exercises. But, you should be doing the exact opposite. You should be able to breathe normally while engaging your core. Strengthening and engaging your core will help protect your back, it will help you have better form meaning that you will be working the correct muscles which will lead to faster progress and results.
You can really test your core strength with single leg exercises and keeping your balance! Try performing single leg deadlifts, lunges, side lunges, etc. to test your balance and focus on engaging your core at the same time.
Hopefully this helped you learn the proper way to engage your core! Now, it's time to practice!