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5 core exercises to toughen your belly


5 core exercises to toughen your bellySo you can't possibly attempt a headstand at the yoga class and are dealing with that annoying flab around your waist? No surprise. Fat aside, many beginners have upper back tension or lower back issues. 

This is because the core is located in the posterior chain and strengthening it will help keep the chest up and spine strong, which can correlate to some back pain relief. Whether you're getting back into fitness after a gap or have never exercised, developing a solid core is key. It will increase your stability and balance. You'll be able to perform advance moves with confidence as you regain your strength.

1: BIRD-DOG CRUNCH

WORKS THE: ABS, HAMSTRINGS, GLUTES AND SHOULDERS

Stronger abs don't develop overnight -the deal is to first learn to activate your core. Start on the floor on all fours, hands placed under neath your shoulders, hips in line with your knees. Lift your right hand and extend your arm straight out in front of you, at shoulder height, while simultaneously lifting your left leg and extending it straight back. (a) Your body should be in a straight line from right fin gertips to left toes. Bring your left leg to touch your right elbow under your stomach. Extend your leg and arm out again. Return to starting position. (b) Repeat on the other side. Do five reps on each side.

2: STANDING BICYCLE CRUNCHES

WORKS THE: OBLIQUES, ROTATIONAL MUSCLES

Stand with your feet hip width apart, hands placed behind your head. With a tight core, back straight and relaxed shoulder, lift your right leg and raise your right knee and lower your left elbow towards each other.
(a) Return to the starting position. (b) Repeat on the opposite side. Do five reps on each side.

3: SEATED LEG LIFTS

WORKS THE: ABS, HAMSTRINGS

Sit on the floor, legs stretched straight out in front of you. Keeping your core engaged, lean back slightly, so you're able to place your hands on either side of your glutes. Take a deep breath and lift one leg six inches off the ground. (a) Hold for five seconds, and then put it down. Repeat with the other leg. (b) Continue alternating for a-minute straight, then take a 20 second break. Do five reps.

4: PLANKS

WORKS THE: LOWER ABS, GLUTES

Start in a push-up position, hands on the ground, legs extended backwards with your toes on the ground. Lift your right leg and bring your knee towards the outside of your right elbow. (a) Return to plank position. (b) Repeat the movement with the other leg.

5: SIT-UPS

WORKS THE: ABS, HIP FLEXORS

Sit on the floor with your knees bent, heels touching the floor, hands on either side of your head, shoulders dropped and relaxed. Make sure there tension in the neck. Keeping your feet on the ground, go flat on the ground. (a) Rise back up (b) Continue for a minute, then take a 30 second break. Do five reps.

(Originally published on March 30, 2015)
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