5 Exercises for a Stronger Core

5 Exercises for a Stronger Core

Recently I have been able to get back to my second favorite past time: reading. I had a stack of books to choose from, some fitness and some not. Even with so many to choose from, it wasn’t hard to decide on my next selection: The New Rules of Lifting for Abs by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove.

It wasn’t the pursuit of a six pack that inspired me to check out this latest workout by the duo that brought us The New Rules of Lifting for Women. It was my love of core work. A strong core is the foundation to keeping us healthy, fit and strong.  A strong core will keep us balanced and make sure we can do day to day activities like lifting heavy objects (such as furniture or small children) and twist to reach for lost items in the back seat of the car.  A weak core causes us back pain and stiffness when we sit too long.

Crunches are not the way to a strong core and a flat belly. Clean eating will get you the flat belly. The core strength comes from exercises like the plank.  I have multiple plank exercises that I use with clients. Reading this book may have doubled the number at my disposal. My husband laughs as I get up off the couch with each new exercise. I get so excited I have to try them out before moving on to the next chapter.

Even though I added to my list of core exercises, I still have my old favorites that I will continue to do and use with my clients.  Here are my favorite moves for a healthy and strong core:

  • Plank: The basic version, that pretty much everyone should be doing, is the one on the forearms and toes. I want my clients to be able to hold this for 60 seconds.  Just like the name says, you are straight as board or a plank. No butts in the air, no bellies on the ground.
  • T-push up: Pushups are an awesome exercise for upper body and core. Do your push up with a dumbbell in each hand. Between each push up, alternating sides, rotate up to a side plank. Keep your body in straight line, as though your back is against a wall.
  • Birddog: Remember the cartoon hunting dog who, when he found the target, pointed straight forward with one paw and straight back with his tail? That’s kind of what you look like with this exercise. On hands and knees, in a slow and controlled manner, raise one arm and the opposite leg straight out. This is a great exercise for the deep muscles supporting the spine.
  • Swiss Ball Pike: This is also a great exercise for upper body as well as core. Start toes on the ball with the body extended in a push up position. Roll the ball in and create a V with the body, keeping your back and hips in a neutral position. Your upper body might feel like you are doing a hand stand. Slowly roll ball back out till your body is once again parallel to the floor.
  • Overhead squat: Not to be done with the weight you would normally squat, this version of the squat engages your whole body from top to bottom.  Hold a barbell or body bar over head with hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Keeping the weight in your heals, lower to a squat while maintaining the bar straight overhead.  Press through the heals to extend the hips and return to start. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Don’t get me wrong, crunches are something I do every so often.  Just like isolation moves, the bicep curl for example, they have their place in creating definition.  But if a six pack isn’t your goal, you’ve got better options. Try adding one or all of these exercises to your next workout.