Having a strong core is on every climbers wish list. From the moment you step your foot off the ground you are using your core to keep you balanced and correctly positioned on the wall. Every climber can benefit from having a stronger core, and although you can definitely develop core strength through climbing it’s good to do some more focused core training if you want to kick it to the next level; like climbing those awesome overhangs! If you find that your ass is dragging on the ground then that’s probably a pretty clear sign that you’re over due on some core training (and maybe start going easy on the post session beers ;).
So, first let me quickly tell you why I prefer using yoga over the popular crunch. Yoga promotes body awareness. When you connect your movement with breath it allows you to become completely present in what you are doing. You can focus your attention completely in what you are doing and thus move deeper and gain more from your practice. No matter what it is that you’re doing, once you focus on the breath then you are doing yoga. So, if you’re a crunches kind of person then go ahead and crunch, just pair your movement with your breath.
Ok. So below I’ve listed some great yoga poses for core strength that even the beginner yogi can do. As a rule of thumb, while in a pose inhale to lengthen and exhale to go deeper into the pose. Just make sure to listen to your body, it’s not a competition, if you feel pain than back off.
First to just warm up and get you body ready, do a couple rounds of cat/cow pose. Go into tabletop position with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Go into cow pose as you inhale (belly down and look up) and into cat pose and you exhale (round the spine, push the floor away from you and relax the neck down). These poses give you a good stretch and prepare you for some more intense core poses. (Tip: Turning your hands around so that your finger tips face your knees gives you a really awesome forearm stretch!)
Start in plank, shoulders over wrists, create a straight line from the crown of your head to your feet (drop your knees if you need to), and keep your shoulders away from your ears. Take 5 deep inhales and exhales here, then roll onto the side of your feet into side plank. Align your hips and shoulders perpendicular to the ground and extend the top hand up and reach towards the sky. Use your core to keep your hips lifted high. If you need more intensity then lift and hold the top leg. Hold here for 5 deep breaths then return to plank and hold for 5 deep breaths. Repeat for the other side and then finish again with 5 breaths in plank.
This pose really targets your core and is also great for upper body strength. From plank pose lower down keeping your elbows tucked closely by your sides until you’ve achieved a 90 degree angle in both your wrists and your shoulders. Now breath and hold. Yup, it’s going to burn. If you want a little extra upper body work push back up to plank (don’t let your hips sag). Can you feel the burn? 🙂
If your shoulders haven’t had enough then try Dolphin. This pose is awesome because it targets your entire body. It works your legs and arms, opens your shoulders and, of course, works your core! This pose is similar to the popular downward dog with the exception that your forearms are on the floor instead of your hands. Start on your knees and forearms, then curl your toes under and extend your knees away from the floor. This is a deep hamstring stretch so keep your knees a bit bent at first. Press your forearms into the floor and straighten your knees if you can so do without rounding your back. Hold for 5 deep breaths in this position then inhale and rock forward so your chin is above your fist and then exhale back to dolphin pose. Repeat this 5 times. You can do it!
A great core strengthening pose that also requires balance and strengthens your hip flexors. Start sitting with your knees bent and your toes touching the ground. Grab the back of your thighs and slowly lift your feet off the ground and balance on your sit bones that should be firmly rooted to the ground. Extend your legs out as much as you can while keeping your back straight. Feel your core engage but still remember to breath. Once you feel stable let go of your legs and hold for 5 deep breaths. For more of a challenge, exhale and lower your body so that your shoulders and legs are just hovering over the ground, then inhale and come back up to boat pose (bend your knees if necessary). Do this for 5 breaths.
I personally find core work strenuous on my lower back (I’ve had some minor lower back problems in the past) and like to finish things off with some gentle stretches. My favorites are reclining twists and legs up the wall. I start with reclining twists which massages the stomach, releases tension in the spine and nurtures your shoulder joints, which got quick a workout as well. I like to rest my bottom foot on my top knee to feel a deeper stretch. Do both sides then squeeze both knees into your chest to counter the pose. Then, lastly, find a wall and shimmy your but right up against the wall so that your back is on the ground and your legs are up along the wall. This is an excellent restorative pose with so many benefits that I’d need to dedicate and entire post just for it :). Either way, I love the soothing effects it has on my lower back after some good core work.
What are your favorite yoga poses? Share your thoughts below!