Most people think that getting in shape requires things like lifting weights, spinning, kick-boxing, or running.
While these things are all valuable, something I’ve come to realize over the last two years is this:
It’s all about the core.
True, strong biceps and triceps will help you carry 19 bags of groceries (truth), strong quads will help you climb those hills on a spin bike, and that all cardiovascular activity improves your overall health but something I’ve learned from Physique 57, Pilates, and Yoga is that all your power truly comes from your core.
I’ve been incorporating the following exercises into my routine, and I’ve definitely noticed a difference in my overall strength. There are few things better for you than a strong core: it prevents injuries, improves posture, and allows you to practice other exercises more effectively.
I planned on using pictures of myself doing these exercises, but it’s hard to find the time to get someone to take the pictures, not to mention the process of making myself look presentable in workout clothes. I’m sure these models will do a better job of demonstrating!
Sit on the floor with your arms behind you, fingers facing forward, legs stretched outward in front of you. Raise your body off the floor into a backward plank position and gently dip your elbows to lower yourself to the floor. I do 2 sets of 30.
Tricep dips with Raised Leg:
Sit on the floor with your legs bent in front of you, knees facing upward, feet about hip-width apart, and feet on the floor. Place your hands behind you, fingers facing forward. Lift yourself up so that your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Raise on leg. Gently lower your body towards the floor by bending your elbows while bringing your raised leg downward so that your toe points directly in front of you. Raise your arms by pressing your hands into the floor while bringing your leg back to starting position. I do 2 sets of 15 on each side.
Lay on the floor with your knees bent and facing upwards, feet a little less than hip-width apart. Keeping your arms and shoulder-blades on the floor, lift up your hips by pressing your feet into the floor. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders and knees. Hold for two seconds, then exhale and bring your body down. Physique 57 does a variation of this where you perform a fast series by lifting your hips up and down fairly quickly without returning your torso to the floor. That’s also very effective, however, I have to admit that I’m always self conscious doing it in public gym because it looks a little bit like, well, you know. I do 3 sets of 15.
Lay on your stomach with your arms stretched over your head. Lift your arms, legs and torso off the floor and alternate bringing your arms and legs up and down as if you are swimming. Another variation of this exercise is simply lifting your entire body off the floor, holding for two seconds, and returning to the floor.
I do 3 sets of 15.
Ah, the hellish plank. Since I have a hard time doing crunch-type abdominal exercises (umbilical hernia), I love the plank for strengthening my core. Start in a table position on your hands and knees with your hands directly below your shoulders and feet below your knees. Step each foot backward until your legs are straight and supported by your toes. Engage your abdominal core and squeeze your butt for support while holding yourself up off the floor. Hold for as long as you can – I try for at least 1 minute.
I think it’s funny when people say that Pilates is a wimpy workout, because I think it’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The Pilates Roll-up is the quintessential Pilates move, and it’s amazing for your core. Lay on the floor with your arms outstretched above you. As you exhale, slowly bring your arms forward. Keeping your eye on your belly-button, lift your head and neck off the floor first, then allow your body to follow your fingertips as you sit up completely. If you find it’s too difficult to sit up, gently hold onto the backs of your legs for support to help pull yourself up. Doing this is better than straining your neck to sit up. The model in this picture is holding a barbell, but I definitely don’t. My girls provide enough extra weight as it is. Right now I am able to do about 8 roll-ups.
Do you have any core exercises that are part of your routine?