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  1. Belly Up: 6 Good Exercises for a Tighter Core


    When you hear the word core, what comes to mind? Abs? Lower back? Obliques? If you thought one or more of these answers, you're partially right. Basically, your core comprises all the muscles that are responsible for moving and stabilizing the trunk or spine.

    Simply, your core is your body without arms and legs. If there's any weakness in any muscle of this system, your core is compromised.

    I hear all the time about people who have strong abs, but a bad back. One of the reasons is because they do 5,000,000 crunches a day and neglect the other muscles of the core like the lower back muscles, transverse abdominis, or obliques.

    Tight upper body muscles like the lats or pecs, which would give you rounded shoulders (the caveman posture), do not help either. They would pull on the spine, forcing it to be out of alignment, or its natural curve. What ends up suffering for most people is their lower back.

    Think about it. How many people you know wake up in the morning and say they're suffering from ab pain? If they do, it's more likely from stomach issues. Many people wake up, or go throughout the day with back pain-that annoying feeling like you have two pit bulls gnawing on your lower back muscles. Or it may be triggered from simple tasks like driving, or carrying a baby. I've been there.

    5,000,000 crunches!?

    Strengthening all the muscles of your core, while stretching the tight muscles, is the most effective way of preventing or alleviating back issues.

    The muscles of the core that surround and stabilize the spine are mostly made of slow twitch muscle fibers. In laymen's terms that means they fire more slowly than fast twitch fibers and can go for a long time before they fatigue. (Hence the 5,000.000 crunches.)

    However a plethora of repetitions are not necessary. Your core is at work all day long when you breathe or move. But don't fool yourself and think that breathing and moving will get you a six-pack or a healthy back. I would suggest 15-20 repetitions for various core exercises, with the proper amount of resistance that'll bring you to fatigue.

    I've come up with some general but effective exercises that can strengthen your core, along with a few stretches for common tight areas.

    Straight leg bridge

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    Start out seated on the floor, hands behind shoulders and shoulder width apart, with feet on a box about a foot tall. (As seen in the picture.)

    Lift hips off the floor till the body is as straight as possible. Squeeze the glutes and draw in the stomach, while tucking in the chin. Hold for 2 seconds and descend to starting position.

    Repeat for a total of 15-20 times for 3 sets with 30-60 seconds rest between sets.

    This exercise is great for strengthening shoulders, triceps, and the core. It also stretches the chest muscles, a common tight area.


    Mountain climbers

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    This exercise is sometimes done very fast, however to really strengthen the core muscles, a slow tempo is optimal.

    Start out in push up position, squeezing the glutes and stomach drawn in. Make sure your chin is tucked in, and the body is straight from shoulders to ankles. Bring in one knee to touch the elbow on the same side, hold for 2 seconds, then return to starting position.

    Do the same with the other side. Alternate sides for a total of 30-40 repetitions for 3 sets with 30-60 second rest between sets.

    This exercise is great for strengthening shoulders, triceps, and core muscles.


    Slide plank with dip

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    Start out on your side, with the elbow underneath shoulder. Place the leg closest to the floor in front, with the other leg directly behind it.

    Make sure your body is aligned from shoulders to ankles. While squeezing the glutes, lift hips away from floor, till shoulders, hips and ankles form a straight line.

    Hold for two seconds then return to starting position. Repeat for a total of 15-20 times for 3 sets with 30-60 second rest between sets.

    Do the same with the other side.

    Lat stretch

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    Find a pole or a ledge to hold onto.

    Lengthen arms, bend the knees, and sit back onto heels with your chin tucked in.

    Hold stretch for 20-30 seconds.

    Hip flexor stretch

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    Kneel in lunge position. If stretching the left side first, raise the left hand over the head and slightly rotate upper body to the left with the right arm inside the right thigh, as seen in picture.

    Concentrate on squeezing the left glute to stretch hip flexor on the opposite side of the hip. If done correctly, stretch should be immediately felt as soon as you squeeze the glute.

    You can slightly move the hips forward for a bigger stretch while keeping the glute contracted.

    Hold stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat for the other side.

    Chest stretch

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    Finding a doorway, raise one elbow shoulder level forming a 90-degree angle.

    Place elbow on doorpost; step forward with the foot on the same side for the desired stretch.

    Hold stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat for the other side.

    NOTES: Some exercises are generally for the physically fit and active. If you suffer from joint pain, or have cardiac-related problems, please consult a physician before starting a routine. Otherwise, seek an experienced personal trainer for proper techniques.

    For more information, check out www.AmmoAthletics.com

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