Your core is the first thing people notice about you – think of it as your body’s business card. It’s your center of gravity; the epicenter of where all of your movements originate. Your core, also known as the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, is composed of 29 muscles — not just the abs — that attach to the spine and the pelvis. Your posture partners up with your core to work in harmony in your daily activities from work to play. So it makes sense to work the body parts that give you better balance, stability and agility no matter what your age. A strong core can be just the performance edge you need.
Conversely, a weak and neglected core can quickly sideline you – that’s why over 80% of adults have experienced back pain. In fact, low back pain is 2nd to the common cold as a cause of lost days at work. Every movement you make starts in the core from the simple act of reaching for a glass of water, to getting out of a chair, to running in a game. Strengthening the core involves more than just floor moves; it’s about moving our bodies through different planes that mimic how we work and play. How is your core working for you?
As a personal trainer and coach it is my desire to help you strengthen your core and get in shape for a long and healthy life. The exercises below can be performed 2-3 times a week. You can do core exercise no matter where your travels take you, as long as you have access to a carpeted floor or mat. As your core improves, you will find it easier to do your daily tasks and physical activities. You will also notice improved posture, a stronger back and overall sense of muscle support. Work your core and eat a healthy food diet and that belly fat that’s been plaguing you all these years will begin to shrink as your performance improves.
Start adding some of these exercises into your daily routine. But before beginning any new exercise program always consult your physician. If you experience any discomfort stop the exercise or try doing a modified version. Most of all always know that “when you’re moving you’re improving.”
Core Exercise Standing Warm-ups: 10 minutes, 1 set – 10-15 reps each side
- Leg swing standing – 1 leg at a time.
- Standing bicycle peddling – 1 leg at a time.
- Soccer kicks low and sweeping.
- Arm Circles – front and back.
- Side bends.
- Knee/toe touches.
- Shoulder rolls followed by shrugs.
- Torso Twist helicopter – slowly twist and swing arms and torso to each side.
- Neck Leans – with head centered slowly lean to each side, front and back holding the lean for 10-12- seconds each side. Return to center each time.
- Hula pelvic circles each side.
- Swim strokes – Vary some dry land swim strokes such as the crawl, breast and backstroke.
- Boxing – Vary punches straight, up and undercuts.
- March – lift knees hip high and march around straight or in circle.
- Butt kicks – In place or walking try to imagine your heel kicking your butt.
Do each of the following core exercises 1-3 sets/times. Gradually build up to 10 to 15 repetitions as your strength improves. Avoid any exercise that is contraindicated.
Strength Training/Core Standing
Golf Swing Motion or wood chops reaching up and down to each side.
- Fan kicks – Sweep each leg from center out then switch.
- Platypus walk – Bend knees in wide stance and squat to hips parallel to floor with arms bent in front of you as if in a holdup. Move forward by rotating hips and legs side to side as a unit and pivot from side to side.
- Leg kicks front and roundhouse or side kicks. For an added challenge, do while moving in a straight line.
- Good mornings – Stand straight and bend from the hips over until you feel you have to bend your legs and then lift back up and repeat. Try not to round your back.
- Single hip circles with one bent knee, sweep from center to out to open your hip.
- Standing leg curls – bend knee up and down curling your heel towards your butt.
- Standing tall crunch – hands at ears then lift single elbow to opposite knee.
- Calves/toe raises – add challenge one leg at a time.
Strength Training Core Floor Moves
- Knee Swish or Segmental rotation – Lie on your back with your knees bent and your back in a neutral position. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Keeping your shoulders on the floor let your knees fall slowly to the left and hold. Go only as far as is comfortable. You should feel a stretch, but no pain. Return to the start position. Repeat the exercise to the opposite side.
- Cat Camel – On all fours, arch your back like a cat and then let it sag like a camel.
- The Cobra – To begin this stretching exercise lie flat on stomach, forehead to ground, with arms straight out in front of you. Slide your arms as you slowly raise your upper torso and slowly arch your back then slowly bringing the upper torso back down to the floor. Do not over arch and stop if there’s pain. May be modified to elbows.
- Reverse crunches: Lie flat on your back, your hands behind your head. Bend knees 90 degrees. Place hands by side or under buttocks for support and make sure your lower back remains flat on the floor. Tightening your lower abdomen, lift your buttocks a few inches off your hands/floor. Now, contracting your abdominal muscles, lift your pelvis off the floor, bringing your knees towards your chest. Then, without relaxing the contraction in your abs, lower feet to the floor. Then relax by straightening your body out. You can repeat another set or two. Remember to keep breathing during the exercise, and not allow your back to arch.
- Super Hero – Lie on your stomach with arms outstretched as if flying like super hero. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Raise your right arms off the floor and hold for 5 seconds. As an added challenge, raise one arm and opposite leg as if flutter kicking through the air.
- X- Factor core firmer – On stomach extend arms and legs to in and out as if making an X.
- Pushups – Bent knee or full body with spine straight; modified version – push up on a wall.
- Pointer Dog – On floor on all fours, lift opposite arm and leg to horizontal position. Point, hold, and repeat each side.
- Bent Leg Donkey Kicks – On all fours, lift and bend one knee. Kick leg up to sky and back to chest.
- Front planks – Begin with the easiest before advancing to the next. Try to maintain 10 – 30 seconds on each hold rather than how many repetitions.
- Modified plank elbows – Lie on your stomach. Raise yourself up so that you’re resting on your forearms and your knees. Align your head and neck with your back, and place your shoulders directly above your elbows. Tighten your abdominal muscles and hold. Return to the start position and repeat.
- Lift leg to challenge with 5 second hold.
- Raise your right arm off the floor with 5 second hold. Repeat with your left arm.
- Raise your opposite arm and leg at the same time with 5 second hold.
- Front plank (advanced) in a pushup position with arms straight and hold.
- Front plank clock – balance on one hand and with opposite hand touch the floor in a circular motion coinciding with the numbers on a clock.
- Side plank – The side plank challenges your stability and works the muscles along the side of your body:
- Side Plank: Lie on your side, raising yourself onto your forearm. Place your shoulder directly above your elbow, keeping your shoulders, hips and knees in alignment. Rest your opposite arm along the side of your body. Tighten your abdominal muscle and hold. Repeat on your other side. For added challenge, balance on your hand. Raise your hips off the floor and extend your opposite hand toward the ceiling and hold. Repeat on your other side.
- Modified Side Plank: Do the same actions as above, but with the bottom knee bent 90 degrees.
- Side plank hip drop – while in a side plank lower hip and then lift up. Repeat on each side.
- Lying Side double leg lifts (QL) – Lie on your side with head resting on our arm or towel. Lift both legs up together off the floor while keeping upper body still.
- The Vacuum – This works your deeper abdominal muscles by sucking in the bellybutton like a vacuum. First, get down on all fours. Let your tummy hang down as you take a deep breath. Let your breath out, and at the end of your exhalation, gently draw your bellybutton inward and upward toward your spine. You should feel a slight tightening around your waist — think of it as trying to squeeze through a partially closed door. Hold for 10 seconds, and then rest for 10 seconds. Work up to 10 repetitions. During each effort, your spine position shouldn’t change and you should breathe freely. Eventually, you’ll be able to do this exercise standing up. It’s so subtle; no one should be able to tell you’re doing it.
- TIC TOC Abs – Lie on your back and lift both legs straight up with your arms out to each side for balance. With feet together, move legs from side to side in tic-toc fashion.
- Figure 8 – Lie on your back and lift both legs straight up. With feet together, make a figure eight in the air with your feet.
- Russian Twist – Assume a boat pose position and with arms holding a ball or hands together twist to each side while maintaining the boat pose.
- Sit and tucks – Assume boat position and slowly straighten legs and arms then tuck back in.
- Drawbridge – Lie on back and lift your legs up. Slowly lower legs a few inches as if lowering a bridge towards the floor and pull legs back up.
- Abs crisscross – Lie on back lift shoulders off the floor and touch hand to opposite knee.
- Ab Scissors – Lie on your back legs bent 90 degrees and slowly open them like scissors in and out.
- Bridge Pelvic Tilt – Lie on your back with your knees bent. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Raise your hips off the floor until your hips are aligned with your knees and shoulders and hold for 3 seconds. Return to the start position and repeat. Try the exercise with a single leg for added challenge.
Cool Down Floor Moves – Post Work-Out Stretching
Knee swish or Segmental Rotation – Lie on your back with your knees bent and your back in a neutral position. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Keeping your shoulders on the floor let your knees fall slowly to the each side and hold. Go only as far as is comfortable. You should feel a stretch, but no pain. Return to the start position.
- Knee to chest – Lie on your back with one leg straight then bend one knee up towards chest and grab the underside of that knee and repeat both sides.
- Rolling egg – Lie on your back with knees bent to chest – arms hug knees and rock back and forth.
- Number Four – Lie on your back and bend your knees. Cross your leg one on top of the other knee so that is looks like the number 4 when you have them crossed. Reach in the circle of the 4 and grab behind your knee pulling it in towards your chest as you stretch.
- Hurdlers Modified Stretch – Sit with one leg out and the other flexed in with the sole of your foot touching the inside knee. Lean towards the stretched leg and hold.
- Sit and Twist – Put one leg over the other and slowly twist to the opposite side with your arms.
- Ankle Circles – Slowly roll each ankle around and then point and flex.
- Butterfly Groin Stretch – Put soles of feet together, gently lean forward as you hold onto your ankles.
- Shake it out and hydrate – good job!