5 Exercises for Your Abs and Core
Wait, What's the Difference?
What's the difference between abs and core, you ask?
Have you ever heard the saying: "an enzyme is always a catalyst, but a catalyst isn't always an enzyme"? Well, abs are always part of your core, but core doesn't necessarily (just) mean "abs". In fact, core can refer to all the muscles of your body excluding those in your arms and legs. This can mean obliques, pelvic floor, and even pectoral muscles.
Core of Core
Core, or trunk, refers to the group of muscles of the abdomen and mid-to-lower back. The definition can be extended to include all areas except the arms and legs. Via Wikipedia:
The major muscles of the core reside in the area of the belly and the mid and lower back (not the shoulders), and peripherally include the hips, the shoulders and the neck.
- Obliques (External and internal)
- Abdominis (Rectus and transverse)
- Erector spinae
- Latissimus dorsi
Exercise 1: Mountain Climbers
- Start in a push-up position. Make sure your hands are directly below your shoulders.
- While contracting your abs, bring one knee toward your elbow.
- Return your leg to the starting position and bring the opposite leg to your elbow.
- Alternate legs as quickly as possible while maintaining your form.
Areas Targeted: Lower abs
Contract your abs when sitting at your desk, walking your dog, or whenever you think about it! To start, contract for ten seconds and release. Remember to breathe. This will absolutely make a difference in your core and can be done anytime and anywhere.
Exercise 2: Standing Crosses
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Use your abs to draw your left leg to meet your right elbow. This will result in a standing "crunch".
- Continue on the same leg/arm combination, or mix it up and alternate each side.
Areas Targeted: Obliques
Place your feet on a weighted ball when doing this exercise. The ball destabilizes you, forcing you to use your core even more to keep it steady while performing the plank push-up effectively.
Exercise 3: Plank Push-Ups
- Begin in a push-up position. Make sure your hands are directly below your shoulders.
- While contracting your abs, lower yourself (one arm at a time) so that you are on your forearms.
- Raise yourself back to the original push-up position. Repeat.
Areas Targeted: Entire core, but mainly obliques, lower back muscles, and lower abs
STOP THE SIT-UPS!
They are hard on your back and not as effective as planks for strengthening your core.
Again, STOP THE SIT-UPS!!!
Exercise 4: N-Sits
- Lie flat on your back with your arms at your sides.
- Use your abdominal muscles to simultaneously lift your legs toward your chest and raise your back off the floor.
- Hold your arms at your sides (next to your shins).
Areas Targeted: Lower abs
Exercise 5: Leg Lifts
- Lie flat on your back with your legs extended.
- Place hands below your backside.
- Squeeze your legs together and slowly lift your legs.
- Slowly lower your legs until they're hovering above the ground. Repeat.
Areas Targeted: Lower abs and lower back
Benefits of Core Strengthening Exercises
- Having a strong core is essential to maintaining excellent posture. Standing up straight is not only better for your spine, it can also project confidence.
- A strong trunk increases stability, which ultimately helps prevent injuries.
- When combined with diet and cardio, core strengthening exercises can yield a flat abdomen and reduce the appearance of the dreaded "muffin top".
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