Did you know your abs actually exist for more reasons than just looking good at the beach?! The core (which includes abdominals, obliques, lower back, and hips) provides a muscular framework that protects internal organs, spine, and surrounding musculature from injury, aids movement, and lends balance and stability to the entire body.
I’m sure there’s a few of you out there thinking, ‘Hey! I do get my core work in- when I weight lift, or when I run!’ And you’re not wrong. In fact, you’re going to have a hard time finding a workout where you don’t use your core in some shape or form if you’re doing it correctly!
However, nothing is going to target your core more than core-specific exercises. And because the core is an integral part of any other workout you might be doing- I hope the light bulb is going off in your head of why core-specific exercises are going to make a great addition to your workout routine.
The goal is to train the muscles in the abdomen, oblique, lower back, and hips to work in harmony- and when harmony is achieved you will notice even small results like reductions in back pain, and tummy cramps that meet you right in the middle of your hard cardio routine!
While there are so many different things you can be doing to strengthen these areas, I would recommend making some combination of exercises from each of the four following muscle groups throughout your week to challenge the entire core area.
And…here’s a little extra fun I found on an article posted by Livestrong this week- Skateboard Abs! They posted a series that will attack your entire core area with 12 moves (click here to check it out). This article is a reminder of the many variations you can make with all these moves I’m throwing at you- add a medicine ball, or some resistance bands; do your plank on top of a Bosu ball. No matter how strong you are, you will always be able to challenge your core!
What’s easy about core is it can be quick! Add it in 2-3 times a week to benefit your workout program. Just pick 1 or 2 exercises from each of the categories above, and do each for either a challenging amount of time (i.e. 30 seconds each), or a challenging amount of reps (i.e. 2×15 reps of each).
One word of advice: what I like about setting the reps, over the time when I can (doesn’t really work for holding exercises like planks) is that whether you’re feeling tired/lazy or not, you’re still going to get the same amount of abs in. For example, when I set a time for Ab Bikes- even though I have the best intentions- I usually slack off for about half of it. What sucks about that is 1) I’m only cheating myself, 2) my laziness wins, and 3) I still feel like I accomplished something even though I didn’t. Set yourself up for success!
Here’s an example routine, using some of the exercises above:
Strong Core Routine
(Do entire routine 2x)
Hip Bridge x15
Planks x30 seconds
Jack knives x15
Russian Twist x15 each side
Bird Dog x15
Mountain Climbers x15 each side
Feel free to steal this routine, and also mix and match the exercises from above, or with some of your own exercises. Give your abs some variety- after all, they’re used for all kinds of things throughout the day, variety will only help to prepare them for these tasks.