Core values

Stephanie Hazelwood explains four key exercises for strengthening your core

Engage your core! You’ve heard it before, right? This phrase seems to be the mantra of all fitness classes. Whether it’s a yoga, HIIT or even a spin class, it’s shrieked in them all! But as overused as it may seem, it is understandably said for a reason. After all, it’s been named the core, given its central location of your entire body system.

Once you start to build your core you’ll soon notice the many benefits, from improving back pain and aligning posture, to protecting your inner organs and supporting your nervous system. It will soon become apparent that a sculpted stomach is just a small perk! Here are four easy exercises to get you started on your core-building journey. Once you’ve mastered these, embrace the variations and allow your workouts to blossom.

Plank
One of the most effective core-strengthening exercises is the plank.
HOW? Lying on your front, positioning your elbows directly underneath your shoulders, elevate your body, forming a perfectly straight line. Hold for 1 minute.
CAUTION: Ensure that your gaze is facing down and that your hips are resting neither too high nor too low.

Given the effectiveness of this exercise, embrace its variations and adapt the duration according to your strength. For instance, try lifting one leg at a time or even taking side-plank variation.

Boat
Recognised as Navasana in yoga-Sanskrit, this ab-shaking posture is one to get the sweat dripping.
HOW? Sitting with your legs out in front of you, shift your weight to balance on your sit bones and lift your shins parallel to the floor. Holding in this posture can be challenging but, if you are not shaking then you’re not doing it right!

To develop this exercise further, try straightening your legs and bringing your arms above your head. Alternatively, enjoy taking the boat for a trip down the river, motioning your arms from side to side.

Bicycle crunches
A variation of the conventional ab-crunch, bicycle crunches are an effective exercise in targeting the rectus abdominis and obliques.
HOW? Lie face up with your legs in the air at a 90-degree angle, as if you were seated on a chair. Placing your fingers on either side of your forehead, lift your shoulders off the floor and begin to twist your upper body to the right as you pull your right knee in to meet your left elbow. As you move your right leg back to meet your left, repeat the motion on the other side. Repeat 20–30 times.
CAUTION: Remember to ensure that your lower back is fully pressed down to the ground and refrain from pulling on your neck.

Straight leg ab crunches
Targeting the largest muscle in the core region, the rectus abdominis, this straight leg ab-variation will increase engagement of the entire core and lower back.
HOW? Lying on your back, elevate your legs in the air. As you would execute a normal ab-crunch, ensure that you are engaging your thighs and glutes as you raise your torso and activate your core. Repeat this exercise 20–30 times.

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