>> Monday, November 8, 2010
Oscar: [looking at Michael’s credit card statement] $1,200, what's a "Core Blaster Extreme?"
Michael: That is, BY FAR, the best way to strengthen your core. This machine . . . you sit on a stabilizer ball. You put your feet into the power stirrups. You reach up and you grab onto the super-rod and you twist and you twist and you twist. It strengthens your entire core: Your back core, your arm core. The Marine Corps actually uses it . . .
Michael's close -- in that he recognizes the importance of a strong core -- but, let's back up for a minute. Your core is basically your torso, all of your body except your head, arms, and legs. In athletics, core muscles are responsible for stability. A strong core means dynamic movements, safety from injury, better form and posture.
However, no matter WHAT core you're trying to tone, you don't need fancy, expensive equipment. All you need is yourself and gravity. Thankfully, both are free and abundant.
1.) If you're completely new to core exercises, you will want to start with a Basic Plank position. Those of your who do yoga are familiar with this pose -- it works the upper and lower abs. Again, those of you who are new should start here before advancing to the other exercises.
You begin on your hands and knees and step your legs out behind you as if you're in the up position of a push-up. Hold the position and breathe. Concentrate on your abdominal muscles. Feel them tighten. Feel the energy holding your entire body steady from head to core to toe. And try your best to keep your back flat.
Try to hold this pose for 30 seconds. If you can't, start slow and work your way up. Once you can hold a plank for 60 seconds, you can increase the difficulty.
2.) Congrats! You've mastered the plank. Now it's time to up the difficulty a bit by bringing it down to the elbows. This position is called Modified Plank.
You begin similarly to a regular plank, but instead of placing your palms on the floor, take it to your elbows -- laying your forearms on the ground and clasp your hands in front of you.
Try to hold this position for 30 seconds. Then work your way up to 60, 90, even 120 seconds (2 minutes). Do three sets, resting in between for about 90 seconds.
3.) Side Planks are yet another way to tone your core. They hit the abdominal obliques. Or, what Michael would call your "side core." We don't have a great photo, but in this one, Ashley's in side plank.
You can perform this exercise and keep your arm that's closest to the ceiling by your side, or extend it to the ceiling. Start with 30 seconds. Then 60. Then 90. Then 120. Three sets. 90 seconds of rest in between.
4.) That's right -- side plank also has a modified version. Again. All you do is bring it down to your elbow -- forearm on the ground. You'll be surprised how much this ups the difficulty.
(One more time:) Start with 30 seconds. Then 60. Then 90. Then 120. Three sets. 90 seconds of rest in between.
To recap: Strengthening your core can help improve your running efficiency. It's also good for your speed and endurance. With a strong core, you won't find yourself with as much back pain after long runs. You'll power through races and workouts . . . and have less complaints of tiredness, too.
But there are a million more ways to work your core. These are just the basics. What do YOU do in your workout routine? We'd love your tips and suggestions! Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.
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