Core exercises are a critical part of a diversified fitness program that will help keep your body in tip-top shape. However, aside from just doing the occasional situps and pushups, core exercises can easily be neglected.
Keeping your core in its best shape has a lot of long-term benefits on your health. These exercises help to improve your balance and stability by training the muscles in your pelvis, abdomen, lower back, and hips so they all work together. Most sports and even just daily activities require this balance and stability and depend on your stable core muscles.
Having strong core muscles makes it easier to do everyday activities from grabbibg a glass off of the top shelf to swinging a golf club or leaning over to tie your shoes. Weak core muscles can result in poor posture, muscle injuries, and lower back pain.
One of the best core exercises you can do is holding a plank. This can help to keep your abs strong and the muscles around them all working in unison. However, planks are not exactly exciting.
Here are some different plank variations that will keep your body guessing. Begin by mastering your favorite variation, making sure that your form is correct and your entire body is engaged.
Once you feel comfortable with one variation, try to hold it for 30 seconds or do a set of five reps. Then, work your way up to holding the position longer and doing more reps. Here are some variations for you to try.
A simple side plank is one of the most common plank variations and is a great place to begin if you want to take a step up from your basic plank. Side planks are great for increasing shoulder stability and awareness, creating core and back strength, and challenging the stability of the body. When doing a side plank, make sure to keep your wrist or forearm directly below your shoulder to ensure proper stability.
This is a great variation to do to test your balance and increase your core engagement. Start in a kneeling plank with your hips level with the ground and extend one hand forward with the opposite leg extended straight back. Hold this pose for a moment and then use controlled movements to return to your starting position. Repeat on the other side.
Get in a standard plank position. Keep your core muscles engaged as you slowly tilt your right hip to aim towards the ground. Return your body to center and repeat on the other side. Incorporating movement into your plank helps you strengthen your bodys ability to balance and stay stable while bracing the spine.
Light Knee Taps
Adding in some knee taps and moving your limbs while doing planks adds some additional elements of balance, stamina, and finer muscle targeting. While you are in your plank position, lower your right knee and lightly tap it on the ground before returning to plank position. Do the same on the other side. This will help engage your obliques and quadriceps as well.
A shoulder-mobility plank is another mobility and strength combination. To do this, get in a standard plank position and slowly lift up one hand and elongate your arm, then move it up to the ceiling and bring it down behind you, creating a full circle back to your starting position. Repeat this on the other side as well. It is important to keep your hips steady while you are doing this because staying balanced and keeping your muscles engaged will help you benefit the most from this exercise.
Apple-Picking Twisting Side Plank
It is healthy to include controlled twisting motions in your exercise routine. Start in a side plank position with your forearm resting at your side and your feet stacked. Take your opposite hand and reach towards the sky.
While doing this exercise, keep your hips perpendicular to the floor and do not let them sag. Maintain a straight line throughout your entire body. Using your overhead hand, pretend to reach up high as if you are picking an apple off a tree. Do this with control and keep a neutral spine as you rotate your upper body toward the ground and you put the imaginary apple into a basket that is under your chest. Repeat this move on the other side.
This is a great variation to do if you want to lighten up your obliques.
Start by getting into a standard plank position and slowly lift one foot up off the ground and pull the knee toward the opposite elbow. Keep your body stable and your core strong to get the most benefit from this exercise.
Return to your original plank and repeat this move on the other side. This move not only targets your abs from another angle, but it also adds variety to your workout which can fight off mental fatigue.
After you have tried all of the many variations of bodyweight planks, add in some equipment, such as moving gliders. Start out in a regular plank position and put the gliders under your feet. Slowly slide your feet out to the sides, one at a time and then together.
You can use your gliders here as well. Start in a straight-arm plank and put the sliders under your feet. Keep your abs engaged and do not let your hips sag while you walk one hand at a time forward, allowing your feet to drag behind. You can even try to do this move backwards.
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