I promised here that I would start talking a little more about fitness. Keep in mind, I am no fitness expert, but I do enjoy working out. I try to make fitness an important part of my routine, and in doing so I’ve discovered that the key to a successful workout is a strong core.
“What exactly are core muscles?” you ask.
While many of us hear “core” and instantaneously think of Channing Tatum…
Or Ryan Gosling (le sigh)…
…the core muscles actually include the abs, obliques, lower back and glutes, all of which are equally important and therefore important to workout.
“But isn’t running/the elliptical/walking to the kitchen enough?” you say.
While getting in any sort of exercise is good for you, working the core is especially good. These muscles are what power the rest of the body and allow you to make dynamic movements, including the movements you need to make other workouts more effective. If you’re a runner, a strong core can enhance your form and actually help you run faster!
Strong core muscles help prevent lower back pain, they create better posture and balance (you can be a yogi after all!). In a nut shell, they help you do everything, from participating in physical activities like a heated game of dodge ball (dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge!) to completing simple daily tasks like bending down to tie your shoes.
So basically, the core is core to a healthy, active body. While working out, I try to keep my core engaged at all times, and I try to do a workout that specifically targets core muscles at least two times a week.
“But I hate crunches,” you state.
Me, too. They’re boring, and I never feel like they’re super effective. I say, ditch the crunch! My favorite core exercises are much more dynamic, don’t require any basic crunch movement, and don’t require any gym equipment! Check them out, try them out, and let me know what you think! (apologies for the jumble of pictures – one day I’ll get a nice camera and take my own!)
Stand with knees slightly bent, feet shoulder-width apart. Spring into the air as high as you can, tucking your knees into you chest. Contract the core while you jump. Land softly, knees bent, and repeat, propelling back up after landing. Always jump from the lower position, do not straighten out the legs and then jump.
Get into plank position. Keeping your back flat and butt down, contract the core and bring the left knee in between the arms. As the left leg goes back to start, bring the right knee in between the arms. Repeat as fast as you can, sprinting the legs in and out.
Begin in plank position, arms shoulder width apart, feet together. Contract the core and bring the left foot slightly wider than hip width, followed by the right. Lower down onto your left elbow, then your right. Then bring the left foot back in, followed by the right. Finally, rise back up onto the hands, leading with the left hand, and repeat the sequence. Keep the core contracted and back flat at all times, and try not to let your body rock too much.
Start standing with feet hip width apart. Bring both arms up above your left shoulder. Contract the abs and bring the right knee in and up toward the left shoulder while bringing your hands down to meet the knee. Return to starting position, and repeat as quickly as you can for 30 seconds. Switch sides.
High knees with a twist
This is like jogging in place, except you are bringing your knees up above your hips. Twist the torso back and forth toward the raised knee (keeping the elbows in toward your sides). Keep the core contracted and exhale each time the knee raises.
Start in a squat position (knees hip width apart, knees bent but behind the big toe – keep the butt low). From the squat, jump forward and lift the arms up into the air. Land softly back into a squat position. Jump up and back keeping the same form. Repeat.
Mix up these moves however you like. Take it slow at first to get use to the moves. I like combining them for a high intensity interval training workout, which means I do them all in a row super fast and then rest for 30 seconds. If sweating profusely sounds right up your alley, try that. Do each exercise with as many reps as you can for 30 seconds each, without rest between exercises. That will be about a 3.5 minutes of hard work. Rest for 30 seconds, and repeat 2 more times. Remember to keep the core contracted but don’t hold your breath! And always remember to stretch!
Do you have any favorite core strengthening moves beyond the basic crunch? Did you try any of these? Are you sweating yet?