I don’t like crunches. They hurt my neck. No matter how hard I focus on keeping my eyes up and my chin off my chest, I still feel my neck is getting more of a workout than my abs.
That’s why crunches don’t appear often in my (or my clients’) workouts. I don’t ignore the core however. It is the foundation of our body and functional movement. I just choose to train it other ways.
There are plenty of non-crunch techniques to help you develop your core. If you have low back issues or simply don’t want a pain in the neck, try one of these ways to build a strong and stable core.
1. Planks: I love ab holds and high planks, but they can get boring after awhile. Once a client can maintain an ab hold for 60 seconds, I move on to more challenging plank variations. To take your plank to the next level, try one of these.
Stability ball plank: Place your forearms on a stability ball and toes on the ground. Hold for up to 90 seconds.
Plank slides: I love Valslides for core work! Place one Valslide under each hand while in high plank position. Alternating pushing arms forward and back, about 6 inches away from your body, for 12 reps per side.
Body Saw: Take your plank to a new level by keeping your forearms on the ground but place your feet in suspension trainers that are hanging about 10 – 12 inches from the ground. Move forward and back for 10-15 repetitions. Read Full Post >
Crunch Gym is known for their unique group exercises classes, and their newest offering Surfset is no exception. The class is described as “the world’s first total body surf trainer designed to mimic real surfing.” And after seeing creator and former pro hockey player Mike Hartwick’s pitch it on the hit Fox show Shark Tank, I knew I had to check it out.
All in all, this class is genius. Half of it takes place on a custom-built indoor surfboard called the RipSurfer X. The other half is spent using sandbags, imitating the common movement patterns used in surfing.
According to the official Surfset website, the RipSurfer X is designed to get participants a surfer body that is “lean without looking weak, and muscular without the bulk” and designed to simulate real life surfing. Think of it as a surfboard balanced on small stability balls. In order to remain standing, you have to find your center of gravity and keep your core muscles (i.e. abs, back, and upper legs) active in order to remain standing. You may not feel it that day, but come tomorrow you will feel sore in muscles you never knew existed! Read Full Post >
Having a strong core is a major component to becoming a stronger, healthier runner. At Hot Bird Running, we give every runner 3-5 days of core exercises within their weekly plan. This is both preventative and strength building.
The core, comprised of the transverse abdominal muscles (deep abs), obliques, erector spinea (lower back muscles), and gluteal muscles (your butt), provides you with stability, power and endurance. If your core is weak, it can lead to poor running patterns, i.e. overstriding, understriding, or a pelvis that swings from side to side, and eventually injury. As a result, you are more susceptible to lower back, hamstring and knee injuries with a weak core.
The moves below help prevent injury, make you a stronger runner, and help make running more enjoyable. Aim for two sets of each exercise 3-5 times a week.
Strengthens: Deep abs, lower back
How to do: Begin by lying face down, resting on your forearms. Push off the floor, rising up onto toes and forearms so your body is parallel to the floor and in a straight line from your head to your heels. Make sure you are looking slightly forward so as not to put strain on the neck.
How much: 20-60 seconds
Make it harder: Extend the hold time or try lifting one foot off the ground. Read Full Post >
Holding a plank for a few minutes or doing 100 crunches may be impressive, but did you know these exercises don’t actually make you much stronger in the abs or back? If you want to assess and improve your core strength, try the “Floppy Fish.” A funny name for an exercise, but videotape yourself doing it, and you just might discover why it has that name!
Core strength is important for keeping you upright with good posture. You want that, because good posture helps you look more confident and fit.
* Lie down on one end of your mat in prone position, perpendicular to the mat
* Place one hand on top of the other, with arms out long in front of you and off the floor. Elbows should be slightly bent
* Cross your feet at the ankles, knees slightly bent, with legs out long and off the floor
* Tuck your chin toward (not to) your chest so that you are looking down at the floor directly below your head
* Verify that you are touching the mat (or floor) only from the chest to the hips. Everything else is lifted slightly
* Tighten everywhere your belt touches, then roll slowly from one end of the mat to the other. Return back to start.
* Repeat this exercise 3 times in each direction, remembering to keep your limbs off the ground Read Full Post >
“Joseph Pilates once said, ‘We are only as young as our spine.’ And how true that is!” These were Laura Tarbell’s closing words as she explained the details of her new DVD, Pilates for Runners. Designing this workout especially for strengthening runners is something Laura explained is close to her heart.
“Our spine is involved in everything we do, especially running! Therefore, as runners, we especially need to take the utmost care of our spines and strengthen the deep muscles of the core to ensure the opportunity to run for decades and for the lasting health of our bodies.”
These were similar words different professionals have passed on to me as my body has been reacting to all the stress I put it through during marathon training. I used Tarbell’s workout and was quickly made aware just how badly my body needs Pilates.
Tarbell was an athlete with chronic pain issues all during her young years. She discovered Pilates and felt she had found the missing puzzle piece.
“The addition of Pilates to my routine gave me a new perspective. I became intentional with how I moved my body. I learned how to stabilize my core to maintain good form and posture at the end of a hard race or long run. It helped me to get faster. It helped me build confidence,” said Laura, who continued to say Pilates increased the efficiency of her movements, in all aspects of her life, not just running. Read Full Post >