By: Marina Delio
Nowadays, we hear a lot about cardio, high-intensity training and weight lifting for fitness. While those exercises are all great for weight management and strength, you can’t forget about your core muscles.
It’s tempting to want to see results in a targeted area right away, but a strong core is actually much more important than washboard abs. Not only does a strong core keep our tummies svelte, it improves posture, makes everyday activities easier and makes us less prone to injury.
Our modern lifestyle of being sedentary can lead to weak and tight abdominal muscles. When our core is weak, we find ourselves slouching in chairs and hunching over while standing and walking. The good news is that by engaging those core muscles, we can reverse poor posture — and even a protruding belly!
Good posture is the quickest way to look and feel slimmer, but standing up straight is hard work without a strong core to hold you upright.
Abdominal muscles support the lower back and stabilize the rest of the body. You may not be aware, but you’re using your abs every time you pick up your child or lift a bag of groceries into your car.
Your body relies on those muscles during these activities and while exercising. Without strong core muscles, your back is at an increased risk of strains. Add core strengthening to your workout routine, or even five minutes during your bedtime routine, and you’ll feel better than ever.
Here are four core exercises to get you started.
Doing the plank looks easy, but it works the entire front of the body and is a surefire way to earn a strong core and pair of shoulders. Lie face down on your forearms from elbow to hands while propped up on the balls of your feet and toes — keeping your body straight like a plank. Hold your abs in tight so your back doesn’t sag. Keep your gaze slightly in front of you. Hold this pose as long as you can and increase the duration each time.
Try to work up to a two-minute hold over the course of a month.
2. Russian Twists
Don’t forget your obliques! These side muscles support your lower back, improve posture and are crucial to rotating movements.
To do a Russian twist, sit upright (like you’re going to do sit-ups) with your abs engaged. Lift your feet off the ground and twist your ribcage in the opposite direction of your knees. Be sure to twist from the ribs, not the arms, and imagine reaching behind you. Switch from side to side. Once you get the hang of Russian twists, grab a kettle bell or medicine ball and move it side to side to intensify the workout.
3. Bicycle Crunches
Lie on your back on a yoga mat. Engage your abs and lift your shoulders off the mat while bringing your right elbow in toward your left knee. Switch to the other side and continue in a bicycle motion.
4. Superman Exercise
Make sure to work the back of your core as well as the front (this exercise is great for that). Lie face down on your yoga mat and lift your right arm and left leg. Hold for several seconds, and then switch and lift your left arm and right leg. Repeat.
How do you keep your core strong? Log in or register for P&G everyday and tell us in the comments section below!
Marina is a wife, mom, and the author of the Yummy Mummy Kitchen cookbook and blog. She loves cooking, gardening, running, photography and spending time outdoors with her family and three egg-laying chickens.