Core Work – Blast Those Abs!!!!

Posted: April 26, 2012 in Bootcamp, My Workouts

Contrary to popular belief, the core of the body consists of more than the tummy area that we all worry about. To work the core and create a strong and stable base for your body will most definitely prevent injuries to other parts of your body, especially to the back. Weak core muscles will leave you susceptible to lower back injuries. The abdominal muscles work with the muscles of the low back and the glutes to help stabilize the low back during motion. These muscles work together to bring stability and flexibility to the spine and when one of the muscle groups isn’t working the other two muscles have to work harder to stabilize the spine. When that happens it makes the low back more prone to injury. Injury and inactivity can contribute to weak abs but its not too late to start working on your core.You don’t have to be an athlete to focus on or work on your core. It is important for everyone to have strong core muscles.

As you can see in the image above, the core muscles span from under your chest to your pelvis and wrap all the way around your body. It is my personal belief that the tooshie (the gluteus maximus ;)) is one of the most important muscles when it comes to core stability. A nice strong butt provides a great “base” during a workout out. And, when I sit down and think about it, I don’t recall ever seeing a person with an awesomely strong core who is not fit and in shape otherwise. I have, on the other hand, met a few people (men actually) who focus so much on their biceps, triceps and legs, and have a soft core. This is NOT ideal and is a recipe for injury.

Here are some simple exercises that you can do in the comfort of your own home on your “off” workout days. The core is the one set of muscles that is okay to workout on consecutive days.

1. Abdominal crunch
Abdominal crunches are a classic core-strength exercise:

Lie on your back and place your feet on a wall so that your knees and hips are bent at 90-degree angles. Tighten your abdominal muscles.
Raise your head and shoulders off the floor. To avoid straining your neck, cross your arms on your chest rather than locking them behind your head. Hold for three deep breaths.
Return to the start position and repeat.

2. Glute Bridge – one of my favorites!
To improve the core strength of several muscles in combination, try a bridge:

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Keep your back in a neutral position, not arched and not pressed into the floor. Avoid tilting your hips. Tighten your abdominal muscles.
Raise your hips off the floor until your hips are aligned with your knees and shoulders. Hold for three deep breaths.
Return to the start position and repeat.
To add difficulty, rest some dumbbells or a medicine ball on your hips for added weight or alternating lifting a leg during the raise.

3. Modified plank
This core-strength exercise is called the modified plank:

Lie on your stomach. Raise yourself up so that you’re resting on your forearms and your knees. Align your head and neck with your back, and place your shoulders directly above your elbows. Tighten your abdominal muscles.
Create resistance by pressing your elbows and your knees toward one another. Neither should move from their positions on the floor. Hold for 20 seconds.
Return to the start position and repeat.
Be sure to keep a straight line throughout your torso from your shoulders through to your knees. Keep that butt down!

4. Side plank
The side plank challenges your stability and improves core strength by working the muscles along the side of your body:

Lie on your left side, raising yourself onto your left forearm. Place your left shoulder directly above your left elbow, keeping your shoulders, hips and knees in alignment. Rest your right arm along the side of your body.
Tighten your abdominal muscles. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on your right side.
For added challenge, balance on your left hand. Raise your hips off the floor and extend your right hand toward the ceiling. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on your right side.

5. Superman
This core-strength exercise, called the superman, can help strengthen your lower back:

Lie on your stomach with your abdominal muscles engaged.
Raise both arms off the floor. Hold for three deep breaths. Lower your arms back to the floor in a resting position. Repeat move 5-10 times.
To add difficulty lift both legs at the same time as your lift your arms. Hold for three deep breaths and lower again to a resting position.

6. Abdominal Hold
Sit tall on the edge of a sturdy chair (or step with four risers) and place your hands on the edge with your fingers pointing toward your knees.
Tighten your abs and bring your toes 2 to 4 inches off the floor. Lift your butt off the chair.
Hold this position for as long as you can — aim for 5 to 10 seconds.
Lower yourself down and repeat.
Continue this exercise for 1 minute.

7. The Hundred – a Pilates inspired core strengthener
Sit tall on the mat with your knees bent by your chest and your hands at your sides.
Lie down with your knees bent and your palms facing down.
Exhale and raise your head and shoulders off the mat.
Vigorously pump your arms 6 inches up and down, reaching with your fingertips.
Inhale for 5 pumps, then exhale for 5 pumps. Be sure to curl your chin in toward your chest.
Do 100 pumps, or 10 full breaths.
Try to keep your lower back pressed in toward the floor and keep your lower abs pulled in toward your spine. You should keep your abs engaged this way throughout the workout.
To increase difficulty, straighten your legs into a 45 degree angle

8. Opposite Arm and Leg Raise
Begin on all fours, aligning your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders.
Raise your left arm to shoulder height and your left leg to hip height.
Hold for 2 counts, reaching forward with your fingers and back with your heels.
Repeat this exercise on the opposite side.
Do 15 to 20 reps, alternating sides.
For a bigger challenge, touch your opposite elbow to your knee as you pull your arm and leg in.

9. The Climb Up

Start by lying on the floor with a 3-foot-long scarf or towel wrapped around the ball of your right foot, knees bent, left foot on the floor.
Hold the scarf in both hands, and extend your right leg, keeping your foot flexed.
Slowly walk your hands up the scarf as you lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Hold for a count of 2.
Now lower yourself back to the starting position, walking your hands back down the scarf.
Do two sets of 8 to 10 reps on each sides Be sure to keep your head neutral — don’t tuck your chin or tilt back.
Progress to a more difficult move by losing the towel and climbing up your leg instead.

10. The Cobra
Lie facedown on the floor with your palms near your chest.
Lift your head, shoulders, and chest off the floor, pulling your shoulder blades down and together.
Hold for 2 counts and then lower back down. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
For a more difficult exercise, try lifting your thighs and hips off the floor by really straightening your arms.

And remember!

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