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Best Exercises to Strengthen Your Core

To build a rock-solid core you want to work the body on all planes. This also means challenging yourself in positions that require you to focus on stabilization and building strength. It is important to note that when most people think of “core” exercises they think of just working the abdominals. Our core is really from the shoulders to the hips, therefore the exercises included in this short program will focus on the entire core and offer a variety of ways to target the different muscle groups. For a great core workout, complete the whole series 3 times.

In the first round, focus on understanding the move, in the second round focus on your form, and in the third round focus on properly fatiguing the muscles.

Dead Bug

Starting in a supine position (facing upward) extend arms above and legs out below. Contract lower abs bringing right knee in towards the chest, at the same time lift the knee, and bring the left arm up to the ceiling. Switch. Continue to alternate arm/leg extensions while keeping back flat and abdominals engaged.

Repeat for 20 repetitions.

Low Hollow Body Hold to 'V' Sit

While laying on your back, pull your navel towards your spine and scoop out the abdominals. Float legs off the floor and lift your head, neck, and shoulders while reaching arms towards the legs. Hold this position. This position is called a hollow body. A full hollow body position includes the arms reaching above the head, however, for this exercise, you will be lifting your body up into a ‘V’ position. From this low hold, you will contract your abdominals while continually reaching the arms away from the torso and lifting your legs up towards the ceiling. Hold for one breath then return to a low hollow body hold.

Repeat 10-12 times. It is normal to fatigue faster in this exercise because you are engaging the abdominals, the external obliques, internal obliques, hip flexors, and back, all while working on balance.

Butterfly Sit Up

Stay flat on your back and bring the soles of the feet together in a butterfly position (feet together and let your knees drop out to the sides.) Reach your arms long above your head and contract the abdominal muscles to lift the torso upright and reach the arms out across your feet. Inhale, and on the exhale, lower the torso back down to the mat. That counts as one rep.

Repeat this exercise 15 - 20 times. This is an excellent move if you tend to grip from the hip flexors when performing abdominal work. By opening the hips and holding the butterfly with your legs, you eliminate the temptation to cheat and use momentum thus aggravating the hip flexors.

Superman Variation

Lay in a prone position (on stomach) and extend your arms and legs out. Draw the navel up towards the spine as if you’re creating space between you and the mat. Lift upper and lower extremities off the floor and hold. Keep the glutes engaged and legs stabilized, then draw the elbows back in line with the shoulders to increase the engagement in the upper back. The spine stays long so remember to keep your head elevated and be careful not to let it drop as you fatigue. Lower and repeat this exercise 10-12 times. This movement is a great counterpose to the dead bug.

Plank With Knee Cross

In a prone position (on stomach), hold yourself up in a plank position with straight arms and legs. Brace the core and draw the right knee into the chest and across to the left shoulder. Step the right foot back on the floor and repeat, lifting left knee to chest. This again will work the entire core and the twist will challenge your stability and work on the rotation of the trunk. For more advanced practitioners, try extending the leg out at the end of the rotation to challenge the obliques. It is important to maintain proper form while in your plank. Do not let your shoulder sink, keep the spine long, and keep the scapula pulled down as they will try to lift up as you fatigue.

Work in this exercise for 30 seconds up to 1 minute.

Bear Hold With Shoulder Taps

Come into a tabletop position with palms under shoulders and knees directly under the hips. Curl the toes under and press them firmly into the mat. Take a deep breath in and on the exhale, draw your navel towards the spine, and pull the abdominals up and away from the floor, your knees should hover about 2 inches over the mat. Maintain this position known as a bear hold. While stabilizing the core, lift the right hand to tap the left shoulder. Keep the hips even and your back engaged, you should not allow your lower back to sink down. Place the right hand down and lift the left hand to tap the right shoulder.

Repeat 20 -30 times and the rest in a child’s pose.

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