Strengthening your core is critical for optimal health.
If your core is strong (core strength), that strength radiates out to your extremities and you will be better able to stabilize and align your body, absorb and brace for any impact and move your body more efficiently and with better mechanics. It’s important to mention that your core is not only your abs – but also includes your back and hips so to strengthen your core effectively you need to work the front, back and sides!
Try to perform the following exercises 2-3 days per week.
Tubing Trunk Rotation
Anchor an exercise tube around a pole at about mid-body height. Stand sideways to the pole holding the tube in both hands standing far enough so there is tension on the tube. Keep your abdominals contracted, maintain good posture and slowly pull the tube across your body. Perform 8-20 reps each side.
Start by getting down onto your hands and knees. Position your arms directly under your shoulders and your knees directly underneath your hips. Keep your abdominals contracted inwards and your spine completely stabilized. Your back should be completely neutral and it should feel like a straight line from your tailbone to the top of your head. Start the exercise by lifting one arm from the shoulder and reaching it out in front of you. Simultaneously, lift the opposite leg. You should attempt to really stretch the arm and the leg outwards and lift upwards while maintaining the abdominal contraction and spine stabilization. Think more about reaching the arm and leg rather than lifting so high that you have to arch your back. While you lift onto one leg, be sure to not shift all your body weight to the side that is supporting you. Try to stay completely stabilized. Do this 8-10x each side.
Start by sitting completely upright. Then recline back a few inches while maintaining good postural position supporting your body weight on your sitting bones while keeping your chest out, shoulders back and abdominals contracted. Holding this position slowly rotate your elbows side to side. Perform 8-15x each side. To make this exercise more challenging, hold onto a medicine ball.
Abdominal Alternating Leg Extension
Lie on your back and lift your legs up, bent at the knee. Position your legs with a 90-degree angle at the knees and hips so your upper thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your lower legs are parallel to the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles and brace your spine. Slowly extend one leg out straight to a 45-degree angle while the other leg remains still. Return the leg to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. Note: If the exercise is too challenging, do not lower to 45-degrees. If you want to intensify the movement, lower the leg closer to the floor but remember your reference points at all times. Perform 8-15x each leg.
Lie on your side while propping yourself up on one elbow with elbow positioned right under your shoulder. Keep your body straight and aligned. Slowly lift your hips off the floor so that your body weight is now supported on your elbow and your knees (less advanced) or your toes (more advanced). Keep your abdominals contracted throughout the entire exercise and maintain good posture. Hold for 5 seconds and do this 8-15x on each side.
Place your hands behind your head to lightly support the weight of your head. Keep your chin away from your chest and focus your vision at about 45 degrees into the ceiling. Avoid looking straight up to the ceiling or towards the opposite wall. Now slowly lift your torso up on an angle. Simultaneously, lift the opposite leg off the floor. An oblique crunch does not need to involve a large twisting action. Contract your abdominals on each repetition. Alternate sides and perform 8-15 reps on each side.
Lie on your stomach. Position your elbows under your shoulders. Contract your abdominal muscles and then slowly lift your body onto your toes and your elbows. Keep your back straight and shoulder blades pulled together. Remember to breathe. Hold this position for 30-120 seconds. Note: Feel free to start on knees and elbows and as you get stronger, slowly progress to your toes.
Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for over 25 years and has received numerous industry awards including International Personal Trainer and Fitness Presenter of the Year. She is the author of five books including “Go For Fit – the Winning Way to Fat Loss” and “Fit over Forty” and is the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver and can be seen running, hiking or cycling with her two children, Brianna and Jackson. She can be reached at www.nwPersonalTraining.com or www.ShapeupwithSherri.com
Note: As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started. Contact 360.574.7292 for more details.