Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Core Basics

Core, Abs, Tummy, Spare Tire, whatever your choose to call the space below your chest and above your "you know what". For most of us, this is the area we refer to as a "problem spot". If you think doing 100 sit-ups a day will help you shed that extra fat, think again.
Below are some tried and true moves that not only shape and tone those otherwise flabby love handles, but also aid in improved posture, deeper breathing, and maybe even a better golf game! (that'd be a big maybe)
Stability Ball Crunch

Oh, look! She's even smiling while doing this extra-user-friendly move!
Step 1: Start by balancing your hips and abs on a stability ball. Make sure that the size is correct for your height and weight. Double check your positioning by creating a 90 degree angle in your knee joint. Lay flat with you hands resting gently behind your ears.
Step 2: Keep your head/neck relaxed while focusing on using your tummy to lift your shoulders up and forward. (Refer to happy girl in picture above.) It may help your form to focus on squuezing all the air out of your abs while lifting up. Exhale.
Step 3: Lower your shoulder blads back down into the starting position. Your total movement shouldn't be more than 10 inches between Steps 1 and 2. Repeat for a total of 15 reps.
** Want to kick it up a notch? Balance yourself on your R leg only. Take your L ankle and balance it on your R knee. You can also try putting a 5 or 10lb plate behind your head, held stable by both hands. Just make sure to keep your head and neck in a neutral, relaxed position.
Straight- Leg Hip Raise
Step 1: Start by lying flat on your back, hands down at your sides.
Step 2: Push your hips up to the ceiling, both feet on the floor. Clasp your hands together into a fist under your glutes, extend them straight towards your feet. This will help you keep stable.
Step 3: You will start to feel a slight burn in your glutes and abdominals at this point. Extend your R leg (with foot flexed) straight up towards the ceiling. Keep your foot flexed.
Step 4: Lower your glutes back down to the floor, while keeping your R leg straight up (perpendicular to your body). Push your glutes back up - mimiking the picture above.
Step 5: Repeat this up and down motion with your glutes while keeping your leg suspended. Attempt 10 reps, them switch. This is a great move for your thoracic core (back stabilizers) as well as your glute complex and abdominals.
* Need more of a challenge? Attach an ankle weight to the leg suspended. You could also try a resistance band. Hold both handles in your hands and place the band across the arch of your foot. Extend that foot upward, instant resistance!
Knee to Elbow Crunches

Step 1: Start out lying flat on your back, hands resting lightly just behind your ears.
Step 2: Lift both feet up simultaneously, approximately 3 inches above the floor. (Focus on keeping your lower back on the floor at all times. This will keep back pain at bay.)
Step 3: Lift your R shoulder blade off the floor while bending your L knee towards the body. Rotate your core so your elbow and knee connect. Overemphasize the rotation.
Step 4: Bring your knee and shoulder blade back to Step 2 while lifting your L shoulder blade and R knee to meet, rotating the opposite position as Step 3. This does take some coordination. Don't forget to breath and take it slow!!
Step 5: Repeat this alternating movement 15- 20 reps. By keeping both legs off the ground for the entirety of the exercise, you maintain tension in your abdominals no matter which position your elbows and knees are in.
** Make sure to breath in while changing elbows and knees, breath out while holding for 3 seconds in the rotating position. By exhaling when in the "crunching" position, you maximize your abdominals time under tension.
**If you experience back pain during this exercise, drop your legs to the floor and only lift one leg at a time. Over time, work with various forms of resistence. Once your core is strong enough, you'll be able to experiment with lifting both legs off the floor. 

Disclaimer/ Helpful Hint: I cannot emphasize enough to my clients how much of an impact DIET has on the appearance of your tummy/abs/muffin top. (yes, i just said muffin top). By cutting out preservatives, sugar, and processed foods, you will be amazed at how much better you'll look in a swimsuit! You'll also have more energy to participate in all those fun summer activities! Double score!

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