Monday, January 16, 2012

Core Strength

How are you doing with getting your 60 minutes of exercise in 6 days a week? I admit that last week I only got 4 days in and that is not enough so I am recommitting myself for this week. I had a friend email me after reading the blog to say that she has lost 60 pounds by exercising one hour 6 days a week. Way to go! What an accomplishment. It is in our reach too if the commitment is there.

Today I wanted to touch on another subject...core muscles. Our core muscles give us stability, strength and balance. When they are strong we are strong, when they are weak we are weak and more prone to injury. Core muscles refer to the abdominal muscles and the back muscles.

Traditionally I think of having to do tons of sit-ups, crunches or similar exercises to strengthen the core. That thought makes me tired just thinking about it! While these exercises can be effective, too many can lead to injury. At the National Strength and Conditioning Conference I attended last year, I went to a seminar from a leader of "back safety". It was interesting for me to learn that in the military a high percentage of men and women are injured from doing too many sit-ups. The specific injury is occurring in their backs. So this post is going to give you some new or different ideas on ways to strengthen your core.

1. Plank - I like this exercise because I can see my improvement as I get stronger and am able to hold the position longer or progress to more advanced plank positions. To do this exercise, hold your body in a push-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders keeping your body parallel to and off the ground. Abs are pulled in tight by pulling the belly button in towards the back and holding it there.The body is straight and is aligned with the head. Hold for 30 seconds and over time increase the time. Do 3 repetitions.

2. Kettle balls - A kettle ball is a weight shaped in a sphere with a handle. They are used for many exercises and can be used to strengthen core muscles. Hold the kettle ball in one hand and simply walk 30 steps across the room. Switch sides and return to the other side of the room. The kettle ball should weigh enough that it is challenging to keep your posture in alignment without leaning to one side or the other.  This is accomplished by tightening the abs and using core muscles.
If you do not have access to a kettle ball use another heavy object or weight. Complete 3 sets on each side.

3.  Squat Twist - Keep both feet about shoulder width apart, toes pointed forward. The movement you do next is to lower your body until your knees are at a ninety-degree angle. Important technique cues: knees do not extend past the toes, most of your weight is on the heel of your foot. The movement resembles sitting onto a chair. Keep your arms out in front of you and when you have mastered a squat add a twist with your torso or upper body. Do 15 repetitions on each side.

4. Superman - Lie on the ground face down with hands at your side and palms facing up. Lift your head, shoulders, feet and knees off the ground and hold the position for 15 seconds. Relax and then repeat 10 times. Work up to holding the position 30 seconds.

 Ok...not the kind of Superman we are talking about, but darn he's a cutie:)

There are many more exercises and I will continue to add to them as we go. Practice these and get comfortable with them so when I add more you won't feel overwhelmed.

I'm off to bike and get my hour of exercise in.