If you do only one day of strength training a week, make it core strength. The lifestyle and fitness benefits have been studied, proven, and confirmed time and time again. Core strength is not a trend, it is the truth. And as an added bonus, consistent commitment to a core strengthening program can lead to you having a sexy, toned midsection to show off in the summer!
Your entire abdominal region is made up of the rectus abdominus muscle, (the one right in the front that we all want to look like a six pack), the external and internal obliques (the ones that when neglected turn into love handles), and the transverse abdominus (the most important one that no one knows about). In addition to your abdominals, your back muscles also contribute to overall core fitness. When all of these muscles are effectively worked your midsection will appear smaller. As these muscles strengthen and tone, they will pull everything around your midsection closer to your body, acting like a natural girdle. Your posture will improve, daily activities will be easier, and back injuries can be prevented as your newly toned muscles act as a brace to your spine.
The exciting part is, with all the research done on core strength, an almost infinite number of fun, highly effective exercises have been discovered. Forget crunches. They focus mainly the rectus abdominus and had great potential to strain your neck and back if not done properly. New exercises work the core as a whole and provide functional fitness for everyday life.
Follow this beginner, crunch-free program to start reaping all the amazing benefits of a strong, toned midsection. Perform one set of each exercise, and then start back at the beginning. Work your way up to three cycles.
Set up: Start lying face down with your forearms and toes on the ground.
Action: Supported with your forearms and toes, lift your body off the ground.
Focus: Keep your body as straight and rigid as possible. Tighten your core to keep your midsection from sagging toward the ground.
Time: 20-30 seconds
Note: This is the most effective exercise because it mainly recruits your transverse abdominus. If you can only fit in two minutes of core exercise today, it should be this one!
Set up: Lay on your side, with your forearm propping up your upper body and the outside of your bottom foot in contact with the floor.
Action: With weight on your forearm and the outside of your foot, lift your body off of the floor to form a straight line. Similar to the standard plank, except you are on your side.
Focus: Tighten your core to prevent your hip from sagging toward the floor. Be sure your hips do not sway forward or back.
Time: 20-30 seconds. Then repeat on the opposite side.
Set up: Lay face down on the floor, arms out to the side.
Action: Using your entire back, glutes, and hamstrings, lift your upper body and lower body off the floor so that only your abdominals and pelvic region are supporting you.
Focus: Tighten your muscles to form a ‘Superman’ type pose.
Time: 20-30 seconds
These are the essential beginner, crunch-free exercises to jump start your path to core strength. Follow this simple program consistently to obtain all the benefits core strength has to offer.
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