The “core” is one of today’s hot, new buzzwords, as core strength training is extremely important. The core, briefly defined, is the central, stabilizing part of your body. When most people refer to the core, they are talking about the abs, the obliques (muscles on your sides), and the muscles in your lower back. The core is crucial to maintaing stability for just about everything you do. Whether you’re sitting in a desk, walking, or picking an object up off the ground, the core constantly supports you. But the question is…what supports your core? Core strength training exercises of course!
The following exercises are recommended to build optimal core strength:
The first three exercises use exercise balls. If you’re truly dedicated to strengthening your core, I recommend buying an exercise ball ASAP. Almost any kind of work with an exercise ball will build core strength — your core is constantly tasked to stabilize itself on the unsteady, air inflated exercise ball.
1. Core Exercise Ball Crunches
These are infinitely better than regular crunches to strengthen your core — your entire core is constantly working to stabilize your body on the ball. Simply sit on an exercise ball with your feet flat on the ground. Put your hands behind your head, just like you would for a regular crunch. Next, let your body fall back. Visualize your back curling around the ball, forming a backwards U. When you’ve gone as far back as possible, curl your body back into the starting position.
2. Exercise Ball Push Ups
Get in push-up position, with your hands spread about shoulder length apart. Instead of resting your feet on the ground though, they’ll be resting on the ball. Next, lower your chin to the ground, all the while keeping your back as straight as possible. This is an all around amazing workout–First, your core has to work hard to keep your body straight. Second, your shoulders, arms, and chest are all getting strengthened as well.
3. Exercise Ball Roll Backs
Here’s a secret exercise that works wonders for your core, especially the abs. Begin in the same starting position as you would for exercise ball pushups. This time though, keep your arms locked straight and roll the exercise ball inward with your feet, bringing your knees towards your chest. When you’ve gone as far as possible, straighten your legs, rolling the ball back to the starting position.
4. Medicine Ball Sit-up Toss
Medicine balls, not to be confused with exercsie balls, are the weighted, rubber balls that just about every gym will own. This exercise requires a partner. Lie with your back on the floor, and bend your knees like you would for crunches. Have your partner stand on your feet. Curl up and forward (basically do a sit up). When you’re curled all the way up, your buddy will toss the ball to you. Catch the ball, and immediately begin to fall back down. Toss the ball back to your partner when you’ve sat back up again. This should all be done in a smooth, flowing fashion.
There are plenty of ways to make this exercise more challenging: use a heavier ball, catch the ball higher up, or have your partner throw it to the left or right to work your obliques.
5. Twisting Crunches
Here’s an easy one you can do anytime, anywhere…and you won’t need a partner, ball, or any other kind of equipment.
Lie on your back. Cross your fingers and let the back of your head rest on your hands, as if you were relaxing (in other words, basic sit up position). With a twisting motion, bring in your oppossite knee to opposite elbow (ie, touch your right elbow to your left knee) and vice versa. That counts as one repetition.