A tougher core workout takes more than just adding seconds to your planks.
Science from the Postural Restoration Institute shows that the way you breathe during your core exercises more or less makes or breaks them. A trick of the breath can make each second and each rep pack a bigger punch, strengthening the muscles deep in the core.
Doug Kechijian, a doctor of physical therapy at Peak Performance in New York City, divulges 3 secrets to make every second spend on your core even more effective.
1. Exhale Completely
"The whole point of most core exercises is to teach your body to protect your spine by not overextending your back," says Kechijian. "Exhaling completely before you do an exercise sets your rib cage down, not flared out, which is the best position to save your spine and activate your abs."
Before any core move, exhale completely so your ribs are "down" and maintain that rib position throughout the move. Breathe deeply in that position while you are doing the exercise.
2. Count Breaths, Not Reps
Huffing and puffing during your core workout only actives the outer muscles.
"Doing relaxed, deep breaths allows your body to activate and strengthen your deep core," says Kechijian. "Working those muscles, such as your transversus abdominus and pelvic floor, provides more stability, which can make your body more efficient at performing nearly all physical tasks."
When you plank, hold the position for deep breaths instead of seconds. Attempt to fill your entire torso with air with each breath and then forcefully blow it out. If you are breathing deeply enough, your lower back and sides will expand, not your chest, each time you inhale.
3. Round Your Upper Back
Believe it or not, it is beneficial to round your upper back when you are doing your floor based core exercises.
"Most people have tight upper backs. Rounding your upper back and breathing in that position releases tension and loosens those muscles, which can help you avoid injury," says Kechijian.
Think about pushing your sternum into the ceiling, then breathe, trying to fill your upper lungs with air.