Although core exercises are extremely important to a well-rounded fitness program, people often assume that doing a few sit-ups every now and then is all it takes to strengthen their core. While sit-ups are a good exercise, it often takes much more to really build your core. To clarify, core muscles are generally defined as the muscles that are in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen and play a vital part in a number of daily functions.
Strengthening your core improves posture, stability, is the key to flat abs, reduces the risk of back injuries and plays an extremely important role in sports performance. To put its’ importance in perspective, one must realize that any dynamic movement that is made with your upper or lower body actually originates from the muscles in your core.
With all of this being said, here are 3 exercises that are simple to do, don’t require a gym membership, will greatly improve your core strength and will tighten and flatten your belly when incorporated into your workout routine.
Leg lifts are one of the simplest and most effective ways to strengthen your core, specifically your lower abs. To start you will need to lie flat on the ground or on a yoga mat with your hands either behind your head or across your chest. The next step is to lift your legs off the ground while keeping them in a straight or slightly bent position. By tightening your abdominal muscles and squeezing your buttocks, lift your legs so that your body comes somewhat close to creating an ‘L’ shape and then return your legs to approximately an inch off the ground. After completing the single repetition you will want to repeat anywhere between 5-40 times. The amount of repetitions you are able to do will be a reflection on the strength of your lower abs and will vary from person to person.
One variation of this exercise that may be of interest is to lie in the same position and lift your legs in a similar manner but hold them only one inch off the ground. You will want to hold your straightened legs off the ground for anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Again, the amount of time you are able to sustain your leg raise will vary from person to person.
Don’t let the name throw you off- this is a relatively common core exercise that again is easy to do and can pretty much be done anywhere. To do this, lie on your back with your knees bent in an upward position and your back in a relatively neutral position. Let your knees ‘fall’ to the left while keeping your shoulders on the floor. It is important that you only let your knees fall as far as what is comfortable for you, that distance will vary from person to person. Once you have reached a comfortable position, return your knees to the starting point and repeat the exercise to your right. Make sure that when you are doing this exercise you are feeling a stretch, not pain.
The great thing about this exercise is that it is not only a great way to tone your core and abs, but it’s also a good way to stretch your lower back.
There are a variety of names out there for this exercise, but the bottom line is that it is a great core workout. Start in the push-up position and after holding for 10-15 seconds begin to place your hands further and further in front of you. Move your hands one at a time but make sure not to reach too far as you will find that you will be nearly fully extended quickly. Once you reach a position where you are well extended with your weight on your hands and toes, begin moving your hands back to their original position. Once you have reached the original position, repeat.
There are tons of great core exercises out there so don’t limit yourself to just these three. What are your favorite core exercises?