Core strengthning is a hot topic in fitness circles these days and for good reason. A strong core – the area around your trunk and pelvis – helps back aches disappear, makes jobs like lifting children and grocery bags easier and even makes you look taller and trimmer. But the best news is that strengthening these often weak muscles can improve your walking style and speed and make you less susceptible to injury. Core strengthening exercises create a strong mid-section, which can provide a powerful base for the body and share the workload with the legs and arms during exercise.
If you’re hoping to melt away love handles, a pot belly or a thick waistline, remember that core training is only one part of a well-rounded exercise program. For the best body shaping results, you’ll also need to combine these exercises with sensible eating and your regular walking program.
Get started with these four exercises. For each one, perform two sets of eight to 12 repetitions three to four times a week. Ease into it with just one or two exercises, or perform all four consecutively for the greatest challenge.
Before the start of each exercise, “brace” your core by lifting your navel up and in. Then, focus on tightening the area that forms a triangle between your hip bones and pubic bone.
Lie on your back with your arms close to your sides. Lift your knees over your hips, and position your shins parallel to the floor. Keeping your core braced, slowly lower your right heel and gently tap it on the ground. Be sure your back doesn’t arch as your foot lowers. Return to the start position, and repeat with the other leg. Each repetition should take about four seconds.
Lie on your back with your arms extended to the side with your palms down. Lift your knees over your hips, and position your shins parallel to the floor. Slowly lower both legs to the right, feeling your left hip and left shoulder blade lift off the floor and stopping before your legs touch the ground. Exhale and, simultaneously, press your left hip towards the ground to return to the start position. Repeat on the other side. Each repetition should take about four seconds.
Balance on all fours in a push-up position; creating a straight line from your heels to your head. Without lifting your hips or moving your arms or torso, use your abdominals to pull your right knee in towards your chest. Return to the start position, and repeat with the other leg. Each repetition should take about four seconds.
Balance on your left forearm and the outside of your left foot, creating a straight line from your heels to your head, and extend your right arm toward the ceiling. Twist and reach your right hand under your body, tapping the outside of your hand on the ground slightly behind your body and below your left hand. Return to the start position. Repeat several times, and then switch sides. Each repetition should take about four seconds.