Pamela Hernandez owns Thrive Personal Fitness in Springfield, MO where she focuses on weight training for weight loss. She writes a blog for her web site, www.thrivepersonalfitness.com, sharing vegetarian recipes from her kitchen, exercise strategies, lifestyle tips and stories from her own journey. You can also follow Pamela on Twitter @ThriveFit or pick up more tips on Facebook, www.facebook.com/thrivepersonalfitness.
A client commented to me the other day about the lack of crunches in our workouts. She had worked at a health club many years ago and still had memories of endless crunches during the abs section of her aerobics class.
I told her that while crunches can have a place in a fitness routine, they are not the best exercises for overall core strength. A lot has changed in our world since Abs of Steel was in everyone’s VCR. We sit more during the day for longer periods of time and have less opportunity to be physically active at workplaces and schools. Bodies have gotten weaker. I see a constant stream of tight hamstrings, weak backs and hunched over shoulders. For the majority of my clients, it’s not about having a six pack. It’s about being able to pick up the kids and get up out of a chair without pain.
If this sounds familiar, and sit ups and crunches aren’t the answer, you may be asking what should you be doing?
First, remember the core is involved in pretty much every exercise we do in a standing or upright position. Get in touch with it by pulling your belly button into your spine during exercises like overhead squats and standing shoulder presses or while using cardio equipment like the elliptical trainer.
Second, make sure you do a focused core work 2-3 times a week to strengthen the muscles that provide the foundation for our entire body. Here is my 5 minute core workout, designed for a strong body and firm muscles.
- Plank (1 minute): The gold standard, in my opinion, of core strength is the place to start. If you can’t do 60 seconds, work your way up to it over time. If a standard plank is too easy, try variations such as a single leg plank or plank with your forearms on a stability ball.
- Side plank: (30 seconds each side): Target the obliques with this variation. Too easy? Lift one leg up off the floor.
- Wood chops (30 seconds per side): Pull high to low, either via a cable machine or with a medicine ball in hand. Focus on letting the middle of the body do the work.
- Birddogs (1 minute): Slow and controlled is the key to this exercise. Hold at the top of the movement for 3-5 seconds for an additional challenge.
- Supermans (1 minute): With arms out ready for takeoff, shoulders and glutes are engaged as well as our low back.
Add this plan to your regular workout routine to keep you standing strong.
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