6 Hard “Core” Exercises to Get You Fitter in 2016

Stronger abs not only slim your waistline, but can also improve your posture, prevent lower back pain and help you breathe properly. But when it comes to getting your core in shape, there are a lot of different options (planks and sit-ups and mountain climbers, oh my!). Which moves are best? While planks are often believed to give you the best bang for your buck, they aren’t the only worthwhile exercise. Here are six great exercises that can give you a stronger core:

  1. Flutter kicks: Lie on your back with legs straight and your hands beneath the small of your back. Gently lift your legs off the ground and flutter them up and down, as if you were swimming (you should feel this in your lower abs). Continue for 30 seconds, rest, and repeat five times.
  2. Standing twist: Stand and hold a dumbbell or medicine ball in front of you with arms extended. Move the weight from side to side, using your trunk to execute the motion and going as far to the side as you can without bending your arms. This is ideal for your outer core and obliques. Want to get a partner in on the action? Stand back-to-back and pass the weight back-and-forth as you twist. Continue for 20 reps and then rest. Repeat for two additional sets.
  3. Bird dog: Lower yourself down to your hands and knees, with knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders. At the same time, lift your right arm and left leg and extend them until they’re straight. Hold for five seconds, lower and repeat with the opposite sides. Repeat 10 times on each side.
  4. Bicycle kicks: Lie on your back with your hands behind your neck. Crunch up to lift shoulders off floor. Bring your left knee to your right elbow while extending your right leg. Repeat with the opposite side (bringing your right knee to your left elbow while extending your left leg) and go back and forth. Continue for 20 reps and then rest. Repeat for two additional sets.
  5. Sitting twists: Sit on the ground with your legs bent, heels lightly on the ground, back straight and leaning back slightly. Take a medicine ball or small weight and alternate touching the weight to the ground on your right side, then on your left. Twist your whole trunk while you rapidly go back and forth. To make this tougher, remove heels from the ground. Repeat for 10 reps on each side.
  6. Boat Pose: Begin in a seated position with legs outstretched in front of you and back straight. Raise legs up while leaning back until your body creates a “V” shape. Extend arms in front of you with palms up to intensify the stretch, or grip your legs for added stability. Hold for 20 seconds, then rest. Repeat up to five times.

Want to see more on strengthening your core? Keep reading:

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Photo credit: Greg Habermann

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