And Now . . . Your Core
by Stephanie Nickel
Not to worry. I’m not going to suggest you do hundreds of crunches every day—though a few every other day would be a good idea.
However, it is vital to keep your core strong. After all, your abdominals, obliques, and lower back (your core) are crucial—for every single movement you make.
First, I’d like to dispel the myth that you can spot reduce. Sorry, but that’s extremely difficult. You can burn calories and strengthen specific muscles, but your body will choose where to lose the fat. This typically happens overall, which is a great thing but makes it more difficult to notice in any given area.
Now, all that said, it is still vital not to neglect your core. So, here are six exercises you can do every other day.
Needed Equipment: exercise mat, exercise ball, small exercise ball
Lie face down on an exercise ball, feet against the wall. Tighten your glutes (your backside). Place your fingertips by your ears. Exhale and arch your back gently. Inhale and return to start position, remembering to release the glutes each time.
Repeat 12-24 times.
Sit on an exercise mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Keep your back straight and lean back until you feel your abs engage (tighten). Either rest lightly on your heels or lift your feet off the ground, depending on the strength of your abdominal and back muscles. While holding a small ball, twist from side to side. The lower half of your body should remain perfectly still.
If your back becomes tight and/or uncomfortable, sit up straighter and come forward a little more. If you have your feet off the floor, you may want to rest on your heels to take some of the pressure off your back.
Twist to each side a total of 12-24 times.
For an even more challenging version, lift your feet off the floor and hold the ball away from your body.
This is one of my favourites!
Sit on an exercise mat, your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor. Keep your back straight and lean back until your abdominals engage (tighten). Exhale and bend your knees and lift the lower part of your legs until they are parallel with the floor. (For a more challenging version, extend them straight out; your body will look like a V.)
Hold for 30-60 seconds, while breathing normally.
This is a challenging exercise. If it causes any pain or discomfort in your lower back, sit up taller and/or drop your legs a little. If this is still not doable, you should wait until your core is stronger.
Back Extension with Twist
Repeat the back extension as detailed above, but this time, while your back is arched, twist your upper body slightly, return to the centre, and then lower. The next time, twist to the other side.
Twist to each side 6-12 times.
Sit on an exercise mat, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Roll onto your hip. Tighten your abdominals. Lift your feet off the mat. Exhale and extend your legs straight out. Inhale, bend your knees, and draw them in toward your chest. (I keep my hands in front of my chest. If you rest your hand on the ground, your obliques won’t have to work as hard.) Always remember to sit up tall.
Repeat 12-24 times on each side.
When done precisely, with attention to each step, this exercise provides a great exercise for both the upper and lower sections of your abdominal muscles.
Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, with your arms extended straight above your head. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Exhale. Bring your upper body off the floor while straightening your legs. Lean forward and reach as far as you can comfortably toward your toes. Inhale as you roll back, bend your knees, and relax your abdominals. As much as possible, keep your back flat throughout this exercise.
Repeat 12-24 times.
This may be the best core exercise out there.
Lie face down on an exercise mat. Come up onto your toes and your bent arms. (Your shoulders should be directly over your elbows.) Tighten your abdominals and drop your glutes. (Your body should be in a straight line.)
Hold for 15-60 seconds, more if you are able.
Remember that not all exercises are suitable for all people. Before you begin to exercise or when you want to change your routine, check with your doctor.
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