Most women who work out pay attention to toning up the most visible parts of the body — legs, arms and, of course, butt. Sure, we have a vague idea of where our “core” muscles are located. They’re at, well, our core. It’s easy to think of the core as equivalent to our abs. But a strong core is much more than a flat stomach.
Your abdominal muscles are mostly on the surface of your midsection, while core muscles are located in and around your belly, and your mid and lower back. These muscles do everything from supporting proper posture by aligning the spine, ribs and pelvis, to helping the digestive tract work.
As you might guess, a sedentary lifestyle doesn’t do much for your core. Even if you do cardio or lift weights to keep in shape, a weak core can leave you vulnerable to improper form when you exercise, because some muscles get overworked to compensate for weaker ones.
Here’s a test to see if your core needs work:
- Are you slouching right now?
- Do you lean back in your chair often?
- Do you put more weight on one leg?
- Do you hold your bag on one shoulder more than the other?
- Do you get tired when you have to stand more than an hour?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, your core could probably use some work. A simple core workout doesn’t require any equipment or much time. The next time you work out, try these moves:
This is a standard core exercise. Lie on your side, resting on your forearm, hip and foot. Your forearm should be perpendicular to your body, and your elbow directly under your shoulder. Put one foot on top of the other. Lift your hips by tightening the muscles between your armpit and hip. Make sure your body is in a straight line from head to toe, and hold for a minute. Repeat. Then do the same on the other side.
Once you get used to this position, you can elaborate on it. Extend your resting arm into the air while you hold the position (like when you wanted to be called on so badly in class … or just wanted to go to the bathroom).
The Press-Up (a.k.a. Wonder Woman/Super Man)
Lie on the floor on your stomach, with your arms extended above your head, palms down. Lift and extend your arms and legs, focusing on tightening your stomach. Remember to keep breathing. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Repeat 3 to 6 times.
This one is a bit tricky, so do it at your own pace. Lie on your back and stretch your legs out. Lift your torso and contract your stomach so that your left knee and right elbow meet in the middle. Alternate sides, keeping your torso pulled up. Make sure that when one knee is bent, the other is stretched out as much as possible. Do 10 on each side (20 total). Rest and repeat.
Image courtesy of bistromd.com