If you want to build strength and perform high-intensity exercises, it all starts with your core and back. Your abs and back muscles provide stability and strength which allow you to perform all manner of other flexes and bends. For this reason, core & back machines are a necessary investment for any fitness enthusiast. Whether you plan to use these machines in your home workout area or at a gym, you should make sure to put the time and effort needed in order to build a strong core.
What is the Core of Your Body?
Location-wise, the core of your body includes the muscles around your midsection, chest, and back. These muscles provide more depth and functional movement than most of the rest of the muscles in your body combined. They include your abs and the muscles in your upper and lower back. A person with a strong core is less likely to get fatigued and sore during exercise and more likely to have a stable base when performing arm and leg exercises.
People use core and back machines to strengthen this area of the body because it is essential to successful performance in sports and other exercises. Many athletic movements, including the lifting of most weights and many plyometric exercises, become easier if you have a strong core. Additionally, the core of the body allows you to move more efficiently, meaning that you don’t get fatigued as quickly when you perform certain strenuous exercises. Health-wise, people with a strong core tend to live longer and are at a lowered risk of common ailments such as cardiovascular disease.
How Do You Strengthen Your Back and Core?
To strengthen your back and core, you need to do exercises that work the trunk and center of your body. Using calisthenic exercises or core and back machines, you should feel your workout in your abs, chest, and back. However, you also need to make sure not to put too much strain on your core, especially during exercises that work the back. An injury to your back muscles can limit the effectiveness of other exercises in your workout routine. Such an injury may also linger for several weeks or months, preventing you from fully exercising properly.
Begin any workout routine, especially back and core exercises, with plenty of stretching. This loosens up easily injured parts of your body and makes sure that you will get the fullest possible benefits out of the exercises. Whether you choose manual exercises or benefit from core and back machines, your workout should focus on crunching motions and movements that bring your head and knees closer together. Contracting in this motion works your abs and other core muscles, while fully extending out of it works the muscles in your back.
What Machines at the Gym Work Your Core?
You can identify good core and back machines at the gym by checking out what groups of muscles they strengthen. Many gym machines, especially resistance training machines, have an illustration to show you exactly what area of your body the exercise targets. If you don’t see a diagram indicating the targeted areas, consider what parts of your body are used most during an exercise. Arm and leg machines put most of the strain on your limbs, while core and back machines require you to use the inner muscles of your body in order to move the weights.
Excellent core and back machines that you should try at the gym include the following:
- Incline Bench Sit Up: This machine has a padded bar for you to hook your feet around and leaves your body at an include approaching 45 degrees toward the floor. After situating yourself in the machine, you perform normal sit ups, but the incline adds more gravity resistance to the exercise and thus strengthens your core.
- Captain’s Chair: Despite its name, this machine starts with you standing. You place your back against the padding of the machine and then grab handlebars located at approximately chest level. From there, you should extend your legs outward in a sitting pose.
- Lat Pulldown: You can identify this core and back machine by the long, slightly angled horizontal bar that hangs above your head when you sit down. The machine comes with padding to help you brace your legs, and you pull down the bar repeatedly. This strengthens the broad muscles in your back and along your shoulders.
- Rowing Machine: Although not specifically a core and back machine, a rower is an excellent way to work your core muscles and build up your cardio endurance. These machines feature a sliding seat in front of a horizontal bar that provides resistance. The repetition of the rowing movement strengthens your core and back muscles along with the rest of your body.
What Machines are Good for Abs?
Many of the core and back machines listed above are ideal for your abs as well. In terms of machines that target your abs specifically, you should focus on exercises that require an inward tucking movement, like a sit up or a crunch. This motion strengthens your abs and surrounding muscles more than other areas of your core. That makes them ideal for those who want a flat stomach or who strive for an impressive looking six-pack.
Common machines you might find at the gym that focus on your abs include the following:
- Rowing Machine Knee Tuck: This piece of equipment looks almost like a reverse rowing machine. It includes the sliding base, but instead of sitting on it you put your feet there. Instead of using a horizontal bar and cable for resistance, you place your hands flat on the ground and put yourself in a plank pose. From there, you repeatedly tuck and untuck your knees, strengthening the abs from the crunch motion.
- Hamstring Sit Up: This core and back machine resembles a rounded bench with braces to keep your feet in place. Sitting on the bench and placing your feet against the restraining pads, you start by sitting tall and then perform repeated sit ups. The biggest benefit to this machine is that it allows you to bend back further than you would with a normal sit up, where a flat surface restricts your movement. This requires you to flex your abs more in order to get yourself back into a sitting position.
- Reverse Crunch Machine: Sit up benches are terrific for abs, but they also put strain on your lower back. The reverse crunch machine resembles a traditional sit up bench but has handles allowing you to do a reverse crunch. This exercise resembles a normal crunch, except that your back remains stationary while your knees and legs make the crunching movement. This allows you to work your core muscles and your abs specifically without risking any damage to your back. It is especially useful for individuals with more upper body weight or with back problems.
How Do You Avoid Injury During Core and Back Exercises?
After getting a new core and back machine, many people leap at the chance to try it out and sometimes injure themselves as a result. An injury to your core muscles or back won’t necessarily keep you out of action for very long, but it can linger for quite a while and limit the effectiveness of other exercises. In order to get the most out of your workout routine, you should make sure to take a few basic steps before and after you perform your exercises.
For starters, every exercise routine should always come with plenty of stretching. Make sure that you stretch before and after every workout. If you don’t use your core and back machine very often, you should still stretch at least twice a week. This helps you build up a level of flexibility and makes sure that your muscles are less likely to get damaged during a future workout. If you combine your core and back exercises with strength training, make sure to practice proper lifting techniques. Lift with your legs instead of your back. Improper lifting in any situation can lead to injury, and those injuries are most likely to occur in your lower back.
When you are not working out, posture can play an important role in maintaining your core and back. Try not to slouch or slump your shoulders when you sit and stand. Instead, focus on keeping your back straight and your shoulders back. This creates a feedback loop of sorts—the stronger your core becomes, the better your posture will be. Similarly, the better posture you have, the more effective you will be when you work out your core and back muscles.
Core and back machines can pay big dividends down the road. The stronger your core and back become, the more effective you will be when it comes to other exercises. Keep the advice presented above in mind when you develop a new core and back workout routine and when you start thinking about which core and back machines will help you the most.