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Your core is what stabilizes your body, allowing you to move in any direction as well as having proper balance. Not only does having a strong core improve balance and stability but core strength is what will either stop you from being able to complete or continue an exercise - even in moves where you're not primarily working your abs.
For example, during push-ups, are your hips sagging? Is your lower back arching and is your stomach touching the ground first? In a deadlift, does your back hurt or are you forced to either hunch forward or extend (arch) your back?
If the answer is yes for any of these cases, it's likely you have a weak core so as you can see core strength is super important for overall strength every where else.
Here are 10 core exercises you can add into your routine.
1. Stability Ball Crunches
Lie faceup on a stability ball with the ball underneath your lower back. Keep your feet on the floor about hip-width apart and place your hands behind your ears. Brace your core and tighten your glutes, then slowly crunch your upper body upward, raising shoulders off the ball and keeping your chin tucked to your chest. Make sure you’re lifting your shoulders up through your core rather than up with your neck/ head.
2. Abdominal Marching
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Toes are pointing forward and arms are by your sides in a position that is comfortable for you. Gently draw your abs in by pulling the area just underneath your belly button toward your spine. (tucking your hips). Slowly lift one foot off the floor (keeping the knees bent) as high as you can in a controlled manner. Hold the position for 1-2 seconds and then slowly return the foot to the floor. Repeat the movement on the other side. Continue alternating legs for 30-45 seconds. The idea here is to help you really engage your core during ab exercises and keep your stomach drawn inward and low back firm on the floor.
3. Hip Lifts
Lie on your back and raise your legs up until they are perpendicular with your torso(your body should be in an L shape). Pull your tummy toward your spine (tuck) so that your lower back is pressed firmly into the floor. Lift your hips a few inches off of the floor then lower your hips back down to the ground and restart the motion. Make sure you are keeping the movement controlled and you aren’t
swinging your legs to create momentum.
4. Straight Arm Straight Leg Sit ups
Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms extended overhead. Take a big inhale. As you exhale, brace your core and lift your torso up into a sitting position as you bring your arms overhead. Squeezing your abs again, slowly lower to the starting position. Make sure you aren’t swinging your arms to assist you with the movement.
5. Flutter Kicks
Lie on your back and raise your legs until they are straight above your hips (L position). Make sure your lower back is glued to the floor by bracing your abs (tucking your hips). Then lower your legs as far as you can while keeping your lower back connected to the ground. Once you’ve found a challenging height raise your feet an inch. Start making small kicks up and down with your legs. Breathe in and out through your nose as you complete the reps. Keep in mind that it’s okay to raise your feet a bit to keep your lower back connected to the ground - the closer your legs are to the floor the more challenging it will be.
6. Hollow Body Hold
Lie down on your back with your arms extended overhead on the floor and legs straight resting on the floor. At the same time, and with control, lift your arms, head, shoulder blades, and legs off the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Make sure you’re breathing, your core is tight and engaged, and make sure your lower back is pressed firmly into the floor.
7. Hip Dips
Prop yourself up on one of your forearms for a side plank hold. Then lower that same hip to the floor. Bracing your core to lift your hips up again. Complete the desired reps and do the same on the other side. Please make sure to keep your hip bones stacked on top of one another and that you are not leaning your body forward or backward - ensuring you’re keeping a straight line from your ankles to your head. Make sure the elbow on the ground is directly beneath your shoulder. You can place the opposite arm on your hip or straight in the air.
8. Dead Bugs
Lie down faceup on the floor with your arms and legs in the air, knees bent 90 degrees. Maintain contact between low back and floor, brace your core, then slowly and simultaneously lower your right leg until your heel nearly touches floor and your left arm until your hand nearly touches floor overhead. Pause, then return to start and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat for the total amount of time/ reps.
9. Bird Dog Crunches
Get on the floor on all fours. Extend one arm out drawing in the abs while simultaneously extending the opposite leg out behind you. Bring the elbow and knee in towards your chest as you round your back & remember to draw in your abs. Repeat for desired number of reps then switch sides.
Lay down with your arms by your sides and raise your legs so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your knees are bent at a 90° angle. Breathe out and contract your abs to bring your knees up towards your chest and raise your hips off the floor. Then return to the starting position but touch your toes to the floor first & repeat.
10. Reverse Crunch toe taps
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