Strong to the Core

Strengthening your core is important for just about everything you do. Most movements, whether they’re fitness activities or just every day life, originate from your core. Your core muscles work to stabilize your body and help produce power for movements of your limbs.

Your core involves all the muscles of your trunk not just your abs and low back like most people think. Doing a few sets of sit ups and bird – dogs is not going to cut it if you truly want to strengthen your core.

Your core is basically everything but your arms and legs. It includes your glutes, hips, abs, low back, upper back and chest. Your upper back and chest are less involved in certain core movements but are still connected to the whole core chain.

Here are some great core exercises that can be done with minimal or no equipment. And not one sit up in the bunch!

Planks (the exercise you love to hate!)

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Planks

 

Side planks (a slightly more challenging variation)

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Side Planks

Plank with leg lift (alternate leg lifts for up to 10 reps each)

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Plank with leg lift

Seated leg lifts (I’m horribly inflexible so this is a tough one for me because my hamstrings are so tight!)

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Seated Leg Lifts

Bridge

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Bridge

Back extensions (these can be done on a machine in a gym as well)

Quick, Full-body Medicine Ball Workout

If you’ve never worked out with a medicine ball, here’s a quick full-body workout to try.

Medicine ball workouts are efficient. You only need one little piece of equipment and you can work most major muscle groups with it.

You can get medicine balls at sporting goods stores or online here (affiliate link) in a range of weights. They’re portable too! I took mine on vacation so I could maintain some semblance of fitness without getting crazy about it. I use this workout occasionally for variety or when traveling or when I’m simply short on time. I do 2-3 sets of each exercise.

Squat with front lift: Stand with feet shoulder width apart holding the medicine ball with arms straight down in front of you. Squat down until knees are at least 90 degrees or slightly lower. At the same time, lift the medicine ball straight up to shoulder level keeping arms straight. Return to start and repeat.

Squat with Front Lift

Lunge Press: Stand with feet hip width apart holding the medicine ball in front of your chest with elbows pointed down. Take a large step forward with your left foot and lower straight down so your left knee is at 90 degrees or slightly lower. At the same time, press the medicine ball up overhead. Return to start and repeat with right leg.

Lunge Press

Off-Set Pushups: Start in pushup position with hands slightly wider than shoulder width and feet together with toes curled under. Your body should from a straight line from the back of your head to your heels. Place the medicine ball under your right hand so you are balancing your right arm on top of it. Lower your body as a solid unit until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees or slightly lower. You’ll feel lopsided because of the medicine ball but try to maintain your balance and don’t let the ball roll around. Complete 1 set and switch the ball to the left side for the next set.

Off-Set Pushups

Extended Crunches: Lay on the floor with knees bent and feet about hip width apart. Hold the medicine ball straight up over your chest. Tighten your abs and lift your shoulders off the ground to “crunch” up. Return to start and repeat.

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Extended Crunches

Tricep Extensions: Stand with feet hip-width apart, abs tight and hold the medicine ball straight up over your head. Keeping elbows still and tight by the side of your head, bend your elbows and lower the medicine ball behind your head. Return to start and repeat.

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Tricep Extensions

Bicep Curls: Stand with feet hip-width apart, abs tight and hold the medicine ball straight down in front of you. Keep elbows tight to your sides and bend to lift the medicine ball to your chest. Return to start and repeat.

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Bicep Curls

Happy Exercising!

P.S. My son took these photos for me and captured some amusing facial expressions so, enjoy!