Core Exercises to Strengthen Your Abs

Core exercises are important for daily life function as well as for fitness performance.  Strengthening the core involves the front and back muscles of the trunk as well as the muscles around the pelvis.  This helps stabilize the spine and is also where your power is generated from in order to carry out any movement.  The stronger you are in your core, the better your chances are in moving efficiently and safely in any physical activity.  Here are four core exercises which can be done in the comfort of your home or outdoors that will also help you strengthen your abs.

1/ V-up (modified)

Start on your back with your legs straight and arms over your head. Engaging your abs, sit up as you bring your arms towards you ankles and simultaneously tuck the knees in towards your chest.  Keep your back straight and shoulders back as you come up into a modified “V.” Slowly lower yourself back to the ground into the start position.  If this is challenging, you can do the same movement alternating with single leg.  For the more advanced version, keep the legs entirely straight throughout the movement. Do 3 sets of 10-20 repetitions.

 

2/Plank

This can be done with elbows or hands underneath shoulders.  The elbow version is normally the easier version while the hands require more wrist strength.  Keep shoulders, hips and ankles aligned. Pull your navel to your spine as you hold yourself up. Do 3 sets for time of anywhere from 30-60 seconds or less depending on your level of fitness.

Core exercises

 

3/Side Plank  combo with twist

This move engages the obliques as well as the transverse abdominis, also part of your core. Start with hands directly underneath shoulders. Modified version would start with elbows instead. Stack one leg on top of the other or bring the top leg directly in front of the other leg.  Make sure you are aligned as you lift your hips off the floor and reach up with the opposite arm. Think about stacking your shoulders. Scoop your belly in as you rotate in with your top arm and reach underneath your armpit on the opposite side. Rotate back to the top, lower the hips down and repeat.  This is a more advanced movement and you should be able to execute a regular side plank and the twist separately before putting the two moves together. Do 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions on each side.

4/Extended plank walkout

From standing position, walk your hands down to the floor and into a plank/pushup position. Hold for a second, and walk back towards your feet.  If you have the strength you can walk your hands out further than the regular plank hold. This requires a lot more effort on your core. Make sure you keep your abs tight and don’t let your hips drop. Keep tension in your fingers as you reach back with your toes.

The core, which is connected to your inner and outer abdominals, back, hips, pelvis and glutes is essential in helping you establish a strong foundation for functional movement. Crunches and situps do not have the same effect since those type of movements isolate the muscles instead of having them work in conjunction. You entire body depends on a strong core so make sure you don’t neglect it!

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Cindy Lai

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