Whether its improving posture, or building the strength needed to carry their loaded backpacks, kids need a strong core to ensure a solid foundation for fitness. Core stabilization (core stability or core strength) is using the muscles of the trunk to support the spine and body during activity. The trunk muscles include those in the abdomen and back, around the neck and shoulder blades, and around the pelvis, hips, groin, and buttocks. Core stabilization helps improve posture, balance, strength, and coordinated movement. It also helps protect the body from injury.
As PE teachers, we must educate our students early, regarding the definition and importance of a strong core, and teach simple, effective ways to strengthen it. As always, the best thing children can do to improve core strength is simply play. Yes, good old-fashioned play including running, climbing, jumping, crawling and exploring in an unstructured environment. However, as teachers we can provide our students with opportunities to strengthen their core stability through a variety of exercises. Here are a few core exercises I share with my students. Please note: Always remind your students to BREATHE, as the diaphragm is a main component in deep core muscles.
Bridging (rectus abdominus, erector spinae, hamstrings and adductors)
Curl-ups (abdominal and oblique muscles)
Standing Leg Lift with and without Assist (hip flexors, gluteus maximus, upper quads, adductors and abductors)
Plank Variations (abdominal muscles, oblique muscles, back and hips)
Dead Bug Variation (transverse abdominal muscles, hip flexors)
Alternating Opposites or Bird Dog (abdominal muscles, lower back)
Superman Variations (lower back, gluteus maximus, hamstrings)
Partner Leg Circles (quads, hip flexors, lower abdominal muscles)
Scooter Knee Tuck (abdominal and obliques quads, gluteus maximus, lower back)
Scooter Crab Tuck (abdominal muscles)
Discovering ways to keep fitness fun in PE class is essential to motivation. Sprinkling exercises throughout games and activities is one way to do so. Below is a modification for a game called Rock, Paper Scissors Baseball, which I discovered through raisethebarintramurals.com.
Rock, Paper Scissors Baseball
Goal: to increase core strength while playing Rock, Paper, Scissors (RPS).
Equipment: 4 gymnastics mats for each corner of the room, signs to mark the bases.
- Students pair up at home plate and play RPS.
- The winner sprints to 1st base to play the first available student.
- Continue to the next base for each consecutive win.
- One out is recorded each time you do not win, and you must return to home plate.
- Every three outs, jog one lap around the gym and return to home plate (I skip this step with younger grades).
- Students keep track of the runs they earn.
Our students need us to help them develop core strength. As we know, the stronger the core, the better fitness foundation they will possess. If a child has poor core strength, they are more likely to have an unstable base, making it difficult to control fine and gross motor skills. Core strength also helps prevent injuries related to poor posture, decreases the risk of injury for children playing sports, and improves balance. With a combination of play and a few core stability exercises, our students are destined for a healthier lifestyle.
*According to healthychildren.org, backpacks should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student’s total body weight. Click here for backpack safety.
“Fitness: Increasing Core Stability.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2016.
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