Everyone is talking about core strength. But you won't get it by doing thousands of crunches. Get-Fit Guy explains why core strength is crucial (beyond those beach body photos) and provides a core workout that will keep you fit, healthy, and mobile.
A Quick and Dirty Core Workout
Get on your back, spine neutral, with both knees lifted to 90 degrees directly over your hips. Reach your arms up to the ceiling, right above your shoulders. Extend your right leg forward and reach your left arm back, without moving the rest of your body. Return to the starting position. Then extend your left leg forward and reach your right arm back. Return to the starting position.
Alternate for 10-15 reps on each side (or as many as you can do with good form).
If this is too hard: try separating the arm and leg motion instead of moving them at the same time.
Start on your back, hips pressed up to the ceiling, body weight resting on your shoulders, feet in parallel position, and arms by your side. Squeeze your glutes before lifting the right knee to 90 degrees. Pause and then place your right foot back down. Re-engage your glutes again before lifting the left knee to 90 degrees. Pause and place your left foot back down.
Alternate for 10-15 total reps.
If this is too hard: start by doing some basic bridges with both feet on the ground and work up to this.
Prone Leg Lifts
As the prone part of the name of this exercise suggests, you start on your stomach. Head resting on your hands and legs reaching back against the floor. Lift your right leg one or two inches off the floor. Pause and lower it back down the ground. Lift the left leg to the same height off the floor. Pause and lower.
Alternate for 20 total repetitions, 10 on each leg.
If this is too hard: try doing this on a bed with your legs hanging off the edge from the knees.
Start on the floor, laying on your side. Rest your head on your bottom arm with your knees bent and stacked. Keep your heels in line with your sit bones. While keeping your pelvis still, rotate your top knee toward the ceiling, rotating your inner thigh forward, like a clam opening its shell. Lower the knee back down.
Repeat for 10-15 reps on one leg before doing the same on the other side.
Start on all-fours with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Keep your spine long and neutral and extend your right leg back while you reach your left arm forward. Pause and then lower your limbs. Then extend your left leg back and reach your right arm forward. Pause, and lower your limbs.
Alternate for 10 total repetitions, 5 on each side.
Bonus Tip: Many of these exercises are derived from the Pilates method. Check out my episode on Busting Popular Pilates Myths for more on this effective core-strengthening method.
Start on all-fours again, with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Tuck your toes and then lift or float your knees up off the ground. Just one inch from the floor, without changing the shape of your spine or collapsing in your pelvis. Hold this position for a few breaths and lower the knees down.
Repeat for 5-10 repetitions depending on how long you hold is hover for.
Start on all-fours, the same as the others. Get into a high plank position (like starting a push-up), hands stacked below your shoulders and your body in one straight line. Make sure your neck stays in line with your body. Then quickly draw your right knee up to your chest, and immediately extend it back out and down as you drive your left knee up to your chest. To raise your heart rate, run your knees in and out as quickly as you can.
Do 5 repetitions starting with the right leg and 5 repetitions starting with the left leg.
Find some other variations and tips in my episode all about planking.
If this is too hard: Simply lift your toes slightly off the ground instead of driving the knee.
Resistance Band Torso Twists
In a standing position, tie one end of your resistance band to a sturdy anchor at chest height and hold on to the other end. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and reach across your body to grasp band with both hands and long arms. Rotate your torso and guide the band horizontally across your body. Slowly and with control rotate back to the starting position.
Do 10-15 reps of this one before turning and doing the other side.
Round out your fitness program, even just a couple of days per week, by strengthening the muscles that are not being used in your preferred workout program. Focusing on gaining flexibility and mobility through other exercises will maintain normal range of motion of all your joints. And if you spend some time making sure that your core is solid, strong and well rounded, you will be much more likely to remain healthy, mobile, and well for many years to come.