Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
One of the keys in doing good in Martial Arts is developing core strength. Core strength in simplest terms is the engagement of your stomach muscles to help you with balance and posture. From an Internal Martial Artist standpoint, it is also the development and massaging of all your internal organs that will help promote health and good digestion.
There are many ways to develop your core strength. Below are a few suggestions you can incorporate in your training.
Good old fashion sit-ups
Sit-ups are surprising well adapt at developing core strength. In order to gain the most benefit, you should go through a routine that varies the type of sit-up you perform and which muscles you engage. For instance, crunches towards the knees work on the upper solar plex area. Leg lifts help strengthen the lower back and dantien areas. Chin lifts work on the middle back and midsection. And any sideways movements will help work on your oblique.
Holding standing postures
Being able to hold standing postures also help to develop your core muscles. Without the core muscles fully engaged, it is difficult to be able to hold any posture for extended periods of time. Doing stances such as crane or monk stances will elongate the body and help the flow of energy through that area even further. While you do these stances, it's important to focus on not tensing any muscles. For most people, the legs will burn far sooner than the core. Thus, to get a proper core workout from doing this you really need to develop endurance in the legs to withstand the long duration of standing. Concentrating on the stomach or core area will actually help encourage your body to use the core muscles to maintain your posture rather than just your legs.
When done properly, weight training can do wonders not only to your body shape but also to your Martial Arts. All muscles are ultimately connected and thus working on one muscle area will engage other adjacent and related muscles. For instance, bench presses, which primarily work on the shoulders and upper chest, do help core muscles in the back and stomach to strengthen as well.
Two great exercises, yoga and Pilates, are wonderful supplements to help build core strength. By doing training in these other disciplines, you will find it easier to identify and engage your core muscles. In addition, these exercises will help build flexibility and endurance, two other key traits a good Martial Artist needs.
Core strength is an important part of developing your Martial Arts. Without proper core development, it is difficult to maintain your balance as a Martial Artist and makes it hard for you to root your stances. There are many ways to develop your core strength; just pick the one that suits your life style and training style the best.