Since many of us spend our days sitting at a desk and not moving much at all, our cores are one of the parts of the body that ultimately suffer. And unfortunately, it takes more than a few sit-ups to create to make them strong again (let alone show off a six-pack).
Eva Redpath, group fitness expert of Equinox Toronto says core workouts not only help you strengthen core muscles, but it will also help build stronger glutes, abs, back and of course a better balance.
Fitness experts say the core is probably the most important area of your body to work out — if you think about it, our cores literally hold us up. Your core muscles are broken down into four parts: Transverse abdominis (located under the obliques), external abdominal oblique (located on the side and front of the abdomen), internal abdominal oblique (located under the external obliques), and the rectus abdominis (located along the front of the abdomen). This helpful chart by Biokentic has all the details.
And as much as we should be exercising to build our cores, diet is just as important. Avoid the junk (processed, salty and sugar foods) and stick tofruits, veggies and fish like salmon.
In a 45-minute barre workout session, Redpath works through these muscle groups using dumbbells, a block and glider. Below are her five best workouts for your core. if you're a beginner, start with two to five reps of 10, and build your way up. When it comes to planks, start off with 30 seconds and build up to one to three minutes. And to make things a lot more bearable, she suggests doing these exercises to Beyonce's latest album. (I tried it, it works):
Elevated Mountain Climber
Benefits: Full body strengthening, core stability
Target: Core stability
Start in a push-up position, with hands holding both sides of a block, shoulder-width apart. Pull one foot underneath you so that your knee is at chest level. As you pull it forward, bend it in, while the other leg remains extended. Return to start. To increase intensity, alternate foot position rapidly, almost like you're running on the spot.
Benefits: Using body weight, strengthening core stability
Target: Abdominals, full body
Get in the push-up position and place hands on either side of the block. Your elbows should line up directly underneath your shoulders. With toes on the ground, squeeze your glutes and tighten your abdominal muscles. Keep a neutral neck and spine. Create a straight, strong line from head to toes as you would in a plank. Hold that position and don’t forget to breathe through it.
Benefits: Increases abdominal and lower back strength, increases weight bearing ability
Target: Abs, arms
Place both feet together and position them on a glider pad/towel on a flat smooth floor surface (we suggest a gym studio floor or kitchen floor). Next, keep palms on the floor under your shoulders. Now use your abs and legs, rolling the glider/towel to your middle, lifting your hips, and keeping your head down between your arms. (Your body should be in an inverted "V" shape.) Hold here for one count and then roll back to the start. Be sure to pull your abs in and keep your head even with your spine.
Benefits: Increases endurance, strengthen abdominals, balance
Target: Chest, abs
Sit on the floor with knees bent at a 45-degree angle, feet flat on the floor, and arms extended away from torso (use light weights to increase the difficulty). Sit as upright as possible by pulling your abdominals in, and your shoulders back and away from your ears. Align your ears over your shoulders and your shoulders over your hips to achieve a neutral position through your spine. Inhale, lift your chest and tuck your chin in slightly. As you exhale, lean back, maintaining the neutral spine position. Pause in this position long enough to breathe in; keep your hands extended and, as you exhale, return to the starting position. You should feel your tailbone tuck under slightly as you lean back. Keep your chest lifted and shoulders back, so your spine stays long, not compressed.
Benefits: Increased muscular strength and stability
Sit with forearms and palms planted on ground, below shoulders. Squeeze buttocks and thighs and push up into a reverse plank (on either elbows or straight arms). Hold for 30 seconds and work up to one to three minutes if you can. Remember to keep body in a straight line and don't let hips raise or lower. Be sure not to hold breath.