Working to improve your core strength has more benefits than just trying to get a six pack for beach season. Your core muscles (abs, obliques and lower back) play a vital role in almost everything you do. Whenever you push, pull, lift or throw, you use your core muscles, so it is important to keep them in good shape to keep yourself strong and prevent injuries.
There are many classes and programs available specifically geared toward improving core strength, such as Pilates and
conditioning yoga classes. As you improve, you will be able to add more challenging exercises as well as incorporate more functional exercises that will allow you to train your core even when working other muscle groups. But if you are just getting started, it can be helpful to start with the basics.
This routine utilizes the basic movements of each of the core muscles. If you have a stability ball at your disposal, it can be a useful tool, as it will allow you to easily modify the intensity if you need to make an exercise easier or harder. If you do not have a stability ball, all of these movements can be performed on a mat or any flat surface.
Perform the first three exercises at a slow and controlled tempo in a circuit format (one exercise to the next), and aim for 10 to 15 repetitions with minimal rest between exercises. Finish the routine by holding the Stability Ball Plank for a set amount of time (begin with 20 seconds and gradually work to increase the duration). As you begin to improve, you can build up to two and then three sets of the circuit.
1. Stability Ball Crunch
Lying with your back on the ball and your feet firmly on the ground, position the ball under your lower back (move the ball toward your upper back and sink your hips if you need to make it easier), keep your hips locked in place, and use your abdominal muscles to lift your upper body.
2. Stability Ball Diagonal Crunch
Perform the same as the Stability Ball Crunch, only use your oblique muscles to twist your shoulders as lift your upper body.
3. Stability Ball Back Extension
Lying with your stomach/hips on the ball and your feet extended on the ground (you may also use a wall to anchor yourself down), use your lower back muscles to lift your upper body.
4. Stability Ball Plank
Position your elbows on the ball and extend your feet out while maintaining proper spinal alignment by keeping a straight line from your heels to your head.