How to Maintain a Strong Core

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Pixmac000036464393I started a strength training program this week in preparation for my half marathon training. If I am going to run 13.1 miles, my muscles better be able to support me.

After a combination of crunches, reverse crunches, twisting sit-ups, and side crunches, I had completed well over 200 sit-ups… NOT my idea of a good time.  I was not smiling…

<=== like her =(

While I’m not a huge fan of the sit-up, I do believe it is important to maintain a strong core. Following are a few core strengthening exercises you can perform without doing a single crunching motion!

Balance on the Ball

Core muscles should be worked every day for maximum benefit; however, your workout doesn’t need to take a long time. According to the principles of Pilates, what’s important is the quality of movement rather than the number of reps. The key is to make sure the larger, stronger muscles are not taking over for the work the core muscles should be doing. Balancing on a stability ball automatically engages the deep core muscles of the abdomen and back. You don’t have to think about which muscles are working–if the core muscles are not doing their job, you are liable to roll off balance.

The following exercise, the Quadruped, and its advanced variation, the One Arm Balance, are two of my favorites. Lie with your stomach on the Ball and both hands and feet on the floor. Raise the opposite arm and leg to a horizontal position and hold for at least 5 seconds (longer is better). For the advanced version, lie with your pelvis on the Ball, both hands on the floor, and your legs extended straight behind you. Raise one arm off the floor and balance.

Elisabeth Crawford, Pilates Instructor and Author

Integrate Your Core Training with Other Exercises for Better Results

Activate your core as you perform strength exercises for chest, back, arms, legs, shoulders – any muscle at all. Examples include single leg versions of standing chest press, rows, biceps curls, triceps extensions, as well as lunges and exercises performed on balance boards and stability balls. It is more challenging to stabilize as your perform the exercises, and these exercises train your core to stabilize in different ways than static core training.

Cary Raffle, Certified Personal Trainer

Balance Is Everything

We must remember that ‘Core” and “Abs” are not the same thing. The core muscles are muscles that support and stabilize the mid section, spine and pelvis. Your abs on the other hand, originate from your sternum and attach at your pelvis, their main action is to flex the trunk just like the motion in a standard sit up. Your abs can be worked up to three to four times per week as long as they are part of an exercise program which also targets other major muscle groups like the lower back and buttocks. This way you will keep your muscles and posture balanced. As long as you do not have any major muscular imbalances, your core gets a workout during full body functional exercises such as Squats, Dead Lifts, Push Ups, etc. If you have very limited strength in your mid section, it is a good idea to take up some Pilates based exercises initially and them build up to more functional exercises like the ones listed above.

Radan Strum, Fitness Director for Complete Body (57th Street Location), Complete Body

How much do you despise sit-ups?  =)

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