Your “core” is much more complex than the infamous “six-pack abs” which refer to the muscle group known as the rectus abdominis. Dozens of muscles make up the core musculature, which has three-dimensional depth and creates or resists movement in all planes of motion.
Proper core strength and function can contribute to:
- Better posture
- Improved power transfer and overall strength
- Lower risk of injury
- Protection of internal organs
- Mobility of the trunk
- Improved balance
- Toned midsection (when paired with a healthy diet and tracking with MyFitnessPal)
This quick and easy workout targets the essential stability from your deeper core muscles and the necessary mobility that the core can produce. Days 1, 2 and 3 repeat with higher volume during the second half of the week. If you experience back pain during any part of these exercises, please stop. This signifies that either the core is fatigued and no longer able to stabilize your spine in proper alignment or the form may not be spot on.
The move: The McGill curlup differs from a crunch in that there should be no movement from the lumbar spine to protect the discs and promote proper posture. Begin by lying flat on your back with only one knee bent. Place your hands under the small of your back to monitor movement, ensuring your back does not touch the floor. Brace the core muscles and lift your head and tops of your shoulders, keeping the spine in neutral. For an added challenge, lift your elbows off of the floor.
The move: Line your elbow up with your shoulder and your shoulder with your hip and heel. With a very tight and braced core, push the ground away from you, staying active in the shoulder joint. Feet can be stacked or the top foot in front of the bottom, pressing the blades of the feet into the floor.
Option: To reduce the intensity, perform this exercise as a side bridge from the knees instead of the feet.
The move: The bird dog is a co-contraction of one leg and the opposite arm in the quadruped position. Begin by posturing the spine in neutral, with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and the knees directly underneath your hips. Find a neutral spine and gently brace your core. Sweep the floor with your hand and knee after each 10-second hold.
STIR THE POT
The move: Find a strong-and-straight plank position on a stability ball. Ensure your shoulders are directly over your elbows and away from the ears. While keeping the rest of the body completely stable, rotate your forearms in a clockwise motion, stop and unwind in a counterclockwise pattern.
Option: To decrease the intensity, this exercise can be done with your knees placed on the floor.
STABILITY BALL KNEE TUCKS
The move: Place the stability ball at your shins, hands on the floor, and press up into a strong-and-straight plank position. Ensure the hips never sag, as this can lead to back pain. Simultaneously press into the floor with your hands and onto the ball with your shins, tuck both knees into your chest and return to the plank position. Your hips should elevate slightly during this movement.
Options: The closer the ball is to your feet, the harder the exercise is. For an even greater challenge, this move can be done with only one leg.
STABILITY BALL OPPOSITE ARM/LEG RAISES
The move: Begin with your midsection on the stability ball and your weight equally distributed between your hands and feet with your gaze slightly out in front of your hands. Squeezing your backside, simultaneously raise the right arm and left leg. Lower both back to the floor and repeat on the other side.
Option: For a greater challenge, a full superman (both arms and legs raised at the same time) can be completed, but this is a tricky move!
SINGLE-ARM FARMER CARRY
The move: Grab a heavy dumbbell (or any weighted object) in one hand. While bracing the core and resisting side or forward bending, walk slow and controlled during the entire 30-second set. Repeat on the other side.
Option: If forearm strength is an issue, a weightlifting strap can be used on the working side.
The move: Begin by lying on your back with your head gently resting in your hands and feet about 4 inches off of the floor to create a strong abdominal brace. Lift your shoulders slightly off the floor and rotate your right shoulder toward your left knee. Without lowering back down to the ground, repeat on the other side.
Option: To reduce the intensity, place your feet flat on the floor and march your alternating knee toward the rotating shoulder.
The move: Start in a strong hand plank position, keeping the ears, hips, knees and heels in straight alignment. While maintaining this plank, bend one knee into your chest, followed by the other.
Option: This movement can be done in slow motion with a strong focus on abdominal contraction, or it can be sped up. However, as speed is added, the strong plank should be maintained.
The move: Begin in a high-plank position with the core and backside tight and in alignment. With minimal movement or rotation, drop down to the right forearm, followed by the left. Again, with a tight midsection, return to the high plank, one arm at a time.
Option: This move can also be performed from the knees.
Check out “Workout Routines” in the MyFitnessPal app to discover and log workouts or build your own with exercises that fit your goals.