As many of us know, it is recommended to switch up your workouts each day in order to see maximum results. Many people believe this means doing cardio one day, and lifting weights the next, then alternating between the two. However, this is simply not the case. You should always set aside 1-2 days a week (depending on your workout schedule) for a specific core-targeting workout. This may seem silly because many of us know that you cannot spot reduce. Meaning, you cannot simply do crunches every day to make your core stronger and flatter. Your abdominal muscles are only one section of the group of muscles that wrap around your core to stabilize your spine and pelvis. Your core is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body. Abdominal exercises alone won’t work these muscles effectively. To get the job done, you need to strengthen all of the muscles in your core region including your oblique’s, pelvic muscles, hip muscles and the muscles that support your spine.
So what are the benefits of working your core?
1. Improves ability to do everyday activities and exercise. Cleaning your house, walking up and down the stairs, driving, picking up items from the floor… these are all examples of how we incorporate the muscles in our core. The stronger our core muscles are, the easier these tasks become. You use your core to preform in any exercise task such as walking, running, lifting weights, etc. Everything you do incorporates your core whether you feel it or not. The stronger your core, the more weights you can lift, the longer you can walk or run, and the easier your next fitness class will be!
2. Faster Metabolism. Having a stronger core will increase your metabolism to help you burn more calories and fat, and eventually start to build muscle and definition. Your mid section is truly a reflection of how your body is working. The stronger your mid section is, the stronger your entire body will become.
3. Better balance and stability. Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony. This leads to better balance and stability while working out and going about your daily routine.
4. Flat abs. Yes, the answer we have all been looking for! A strong core means flat abs, along with correct nutrition, of course. Incorporate your entire core with the workouts below and you will see results a lot quicker versus if you only do sit-ups.
5. No equipment? No problem. You do not need any special equipment for core exercises; therefore you can easily do a few reps of each exercise at home! Although you use your core in other exercises such as lifting weights, running, or participating in a fitness class; you can truly target your core muscles with just using your body weight.
Core Strengthening Exercises:
The Key to each exercise is to tighten your core and glutes as much as possible to maintain stability. You do not want to be swaying or “loose”. Stay as tight as you can.
1.) Rolling Side Plank:
- Start in plank position, forearms on the ground and legs extended behind you
- Rotate your torso to the side, rolling onto your left forearm and stacking your right foot on top of your left in, a left side plank
- Hold for one or two seconds, then return to start; hold for one second, then repeat on the other side. Continue alternating sides for 45 seconds
2.) Plank with Arm Lift
- Start in a pushup position, with your feet shoulder-width apart, forearms on the ground.
- Keeping your torso steady, and not swaying when you move, raise your right arm forward and hold for 2 seconds.
- Repeat with your left arm.
- For modification, drop to your knees.
3.) Flutter Kicks
- Keep back flat on the mat and support sides of your body with arms (or place under tailbone for support).
- Put your feet in the air with your legs straight out and move them simultaneously up and down in opposite directions (when one is up, the other is down). Do not arch your back, keep it completely flat on the ground.
4.) Candle Stick Dipper
- Get into a kneeling position and place one leg out to the side as shown in the picture.
- Put your hands together, above your head (your head should be in the middle of your arms now).
- Lean as far as you can to the side that is opposite of the extended leg, then come back up. After 10-15 reps, repeat on opposite side.
- Click here to see a short How-To Video
5.) Pelvic Tilts
- Keep back flat on the mat and support sides of your body with arms. Your knees are bent with your feet flat on the floor.
- The movement is very small as you exhale and tilt up your hips to press your lower back into the floor. Maintain this tilted position for about two seconds before you release and raise your lower back off the floor. Your hips tilt down as your pelvis moves in the opposite direction
- Raise one leg up in the air for half the reps, then switch.
Tip: We recommend doing each of these exercises for about 15-20 reps each side and repeat the circuit between 3-5 times for maximum results. Keep your abs and glutes in tight to maintain a neutral spine and correct form. Workouts done with bad form can result in injuries!