“This time is all about preserving strength as perimenopause starts, and fighting belly fat caused by hormonal changes,” says Jenna Kong Kam Wa, owner and personal trainer at Parallel Fitness in the Greater Toronto Area. “[A strong core] is critical to strengthening and stabilizing the rest of your muscles,” adds Dr. Kathy Gaul, a professor at the School of Exercise Science, Physical & Health Education at the University of Victoria. Likewise, a strong butt leads to less injury and a healthier back and hips.
The core encompasses your abs and back muscles—“it transfers all the power between your upper and lower body,” says Gaul. “If your core isn’t functioning effectively, you’ll notice strain on your arms and legs, which can result in injury.” Working your core improves balance, protects your organs and can even boost self-confidence, adds Kong Kam Wa.
Your minimus, medius and maximus are often the most underused muscles, says Kong Kam Wa. You can thank sitting on your derrière all day for that. Weak glutes may make you unstable: “Your muscles aren’t ring properly and you can end up with joint, back, shoulder and hip pain,” says Kong Kam Wa. This leads to other parts of your body overcompensating.
Plank push away with knee to elbow
From plank position, extend your left leg behind you. Bend arms and bring your left knee toward left elbow, shifting your body weight slightly forward. Do 10 to 12 reps, then switch sides.
Elbow knee crunch
From all fours, reach your left arm forward. Extend your right leg back, bending at the knee and flexing your foot. Keeping the right leg bent, bring your right knee under your hip as you bend your left arm and pull your elbow toward the right knee, crunching inward. Do 10 to 12 reps, then switch.
Leg raise with side crunch
Stand with feet at hip distance apart and with two dumbbells in right hand. Shift your weight into your left leg and, squeezing your glutes, lift your right leg to the side. Return to starting position and move into a side crunch, reaching dumbbells down to the outside of your right knee, bringing your right ribs closer to the right hip. Complete 10 to 12 sets before switching sides.
This piece was originally published in 2018; it was updated in 2020