Most of us desire to attain a trim and strong core. Having a strong core helps reduce lower back pain, as well as maintain proper muscle balance throughout the body. As with any exercise program, it is important to begin at the proper level to ensure a reduced risk of injury. As a beginner, your core muscles need to become stable before you can add strength to them, otherwise you risk injuring yourself while performing core moves, or other moves. Remember, the quality of the movement and correct technique are more important than the number of reps you can perform. Beginners are those who are new to exercising and need to stabilize their core first. Intermediates, are those who work out from time to time, and have a balanced core they are looking to strengthen. Advanced are those who work out frequently, or athletes with a strong core looking to improve their overall speed and agility. Below are a few moves for each level of fitness, to work on the core.
- Marching – Lie with back on floor, arms to the side palm down. Lift one foot off the ground as high as can be controlled, hold for 1-2 seconds, slowly lower. Repeat with opposite leg for 8-12 reps.
- Two-Leg Floor Bridge – Lie with back on floor, arms to the side palm down. Lift pelvis off the floor until knees, hips, and shoulders are in line (do not raise hips too high, this can place excessive stress on the lumbar spine and overextend the back). Slowly lower pelvis to the floor and repeat for 8-12 reps.
- Reverse Crunch – Lie with back on bench, hands gripping the bench by your head, and hips and knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Lift hips off the bench while bringing knees toward your chest. Slowly lower back to the start position and repeat for 10-12 reps. Do not swing your legs. Doing so increases momentum, which increases your risk of injury and decreases the effectiveness of the exercise.
- Cable Rotation – Stand with feet shoulders-width apart, knees slightly flexed, and toes pointing straight ahead. Hold cable with both hands directly in front of chest (should be with cable origin to side) with arms extended. Rotate body away from weight stack, allowing back foot to pivot. Slowly return to start position and repeat for 10-12 reps. Switch and do same for opposite side.
- Rotation Chest Pass (with Medicine Ball) – Stand upright with feet shoulders-width apart, toes pointing straight ahead, with medicine ball (5-10% of body weight). Use abdominal muscles and hips to rotate body explosively 90 degrees, pivoting back leg. Throw the medicine ball with your rear arm extending and applying force. Catch and repeat as quickly as can be controlled.
- Soccer Throw – Stand holding medicine ball (5-10% of body weight) overhead. Quickly throw the medicine ball toward the floor allowing arms to follow through. Catch and repeat as quickly as can be controlled.
As with any fitness program, it is only as effective as your nutrition. Your body needs the right nutrients to rebuild the tissues, as well as reduce the fat to make your muscle training noticeable. Below is one of my favorite post workout snacks, as well as a delicious dinner perfect for rebuilding muscle tissue and keeping you firm and healthy.
Post Workout Snack:
1 Container Plain Greek Yogurt
1/4 C Ezekiel Sprouts
Mix in a bowl for a high protein, delicious post workout snack. If the greek yogurt is too plain for your sweet tooth, add a little honey instead of getting the flavored varieties. The flavored versions have excess sugar, whereas honey is a natural source of sugar. Be sure not to add too much honey – about 1 tablespoon should be more than enough.
Delicious and Nutritious Dinner:
3 oz Salmon
1 1/2 C Baby Spinach
1/2 C Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
1/2 Cucumber sliced
1/4 C Quinoa
1/3 C Black Beans
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegarette or Olive Oil
Grill salmon to desired taste. Mix spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, quinoa, black beans, and dressing in a salad bowl. Place salmon over salad and enjoy! I like salmon as a protein because you are taking in healthy fats and omega-3s. Not only will the fats help with my workout, but both the fats and omega-3s are great for my skin and hair.