Many people equate the core with the abdominal muscles only. In reality, the core includes shoulders, chest, upper and lower back, abdominals, quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals. Strengthening the core allows the body to efficiently transfer force from the lower to the upper body and back again. A strong core will allow for optimal body alignment, better balance and less overall fatigue during workouts and everyday activities alike. The following core workout can be easily incorporated into your current routine. This circuit should take about 15 minutes to complete and should be done on non-consecutive days. Be sure to remain mindful, focusing energy on the core muscles being worked during each exercise.
- Get into a full pushup position with your palms on the floor beneath your shoulders.
- Hold here for 30 seconds, with your abs contracted and your arms and legs extended and your head aligned with your spine.
- Do 3 sets of 30 second holds. As you get stronger, try to hold planks for up to one minute.
2. Side Crunch
- Kneel on the floor and lean all the way over to your right side, placing your right palm on the floor.
- Keeping your weight balanced, slowly extend your left leg and point your toes.
- Place your left hand behind your head, pointing your elbow toward the ceiling.
- Next, slowly lift your leg to hip height as you extend your arm above your leg, with your palm facing forward.
- Look out over your hand while bringing the left side of your rib cage toward your hip.
- Lower to your starting position and repeat 6 to 8 times.
- Do two sets of 6 to 8 reps, and then switch sides.
3. Squat Thrust
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height.
- Begin by squatting down, bending your knees 90 degrees, and twisting your upper body to the left.
- Now come up and repeat the exercise to the right.
- Keep your weight in your heels and don’t allow your knees to jut forward away from your toes.
- Keep your knees facing forward as your chest and shoulders move side to side.
4. Opposite Arm and Leg Raise
- Begin on all fours, aligning your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders.
- Raise your left arm to shoulder height and your left leg to hip height.
- Hold for 2 counts, reaching forward with your fingers and back with your heels.
- Repeat this exercise on the opposite side.
- Do 15 to 20 reps, alternating sides.
- For a bigger challenge, touch your opposite elbow to your knee as you pull your arm and leg in.
5. Single Leg Stretch
- Lie back in the center of your mat with your knees bent. Lift your head and shoulders and curl your chin in toward your chest.
- Inhale as you draw your left knee in toward your chest, placing your left hand on your ankle and your right hand on your knee.
- Lift your right leg about 45 degrees off the floor.
- Switch legs, extending your left leg while hugging your right leg to your chest.
- Switch hand positions each time your switch legs, placing your right hand on your right ankle and your left hand on your right knee.
- Do between 5 and 10 reps for each side.