Someone asked me the other day why the fitness industry seemed so focused on “core” workouts lately. Was that just the current buzz word or exercise fad until the next one comes along? My answer is was simple your core is the key.
Imagine your body is a car. Even if you know nothing about how cars are made or operate, you’re likely to understand that the four tires (your arms and legs) attach to axles (hips and collar) which attach to the drive-train or drive shaft (the spine) and all of this is welded to the chassis (muscles).
If that chassis is weak and flimsy the car will wobble, drive crooked and crash. Likewise if the center of your body – the core, from your abdomen muscles to your back muscles — are weak and flimsy, you will wobble, walk crooked, and ultimately fall down. Okay, not really, but you will have less strength and agility in all your extremities, and you may suffer chronic pain in your back, shoulders, hips, and/or knees.
Through the evolution of modern day fitness, we in the industry have come to the realization that core strength and tone is more important than almost any other body part when it comes to your fitness health. Thus, about 15 years ago fitness professionals began emphasizing and designing exercises that toned and trained our torso muscles (the core area) which had lead to the current focus on our cores.
The reason I address this today is not just to educate you on this area of fitness, but to share some easy exercises for those of you still on the hesitant fence about getting in shape. By performing these simple moves that require very little space and no money you can improve your strength and stability in your mid-section which will translate out into your entire body, and even tone your stomach a tad in the process.
For all of these exercises, the key technique is to pull your abs inward gently and hold them with a tight squeeze (think pulling bellybutton into spine) but do not hold your breath. Repeat all of these exercises 3-5 times in one session and perform all of them three times a week to begin with.
Prone Iso Abs (commonly known as Planks)
Position yourself face down on a mat or rug, resting on your forearms and legs, with your toes curled under awaiting the “lift.” In a single motion lift your body parallel to the ground, with your head facing down, but your neck in neutral position. Your elbows should still be directly under your shoulders, hands and forearms resting on the ground, knees and butt in-line with each other (do not have your butt high in the air). Hold for 20-40 seconds (the longer the better), breathing softly from your chest while not releasing the ab squeeze, then lower and rest. Repeat 3-5 times, three times a week.
Hand & Foot Swap
Start on all fours (hands and knees), head facing down in neutral position (do not hold neck tight). Raise right arm out straight in front of you, while kicking left leg out straight behind you. Hold for 10 seconds while pulling your ab muscles inward tightly as instructed above. Lower limbs and repeat on other side (left arm, right leg). Switch back and forth for 10 repetitions.
Knees to Elbows:
Assume a push-up positions (hands and feet on floor). Gently tap your right knee to your right elbow then lower it and repeat on the left side. Continue back and forth with this motion 20 times, maintaining smooth easy breathing while pulling the abs in tight.
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After you’ve performed these exercises for a month or two, either search the internet for more advanced exercises, or ask me. In no time you’ll feel much more strength in your abs and back and ideally suffer less from weak back muscles and limbs.