More Core, Please!

Recently, I’ve gotten lots of questions from friends who also happen to be avid runners about what to do about hip or lower back pain. Since I’m not a medical professional, my first concern is to find out how long they’ve had the problem; if it’s affecting their everyday activities and if they’ve seen a physician for an opinion. Then I then move on to some questions about their training program.

One of the first things I ask: “So tell me about your core work?” That’s usually when I get the sheepish response that sounds something like: “Well, I could probably do more of that.”

You know what? We ALL could!

So, on this workout Wednesday, I go beyond the crunch to show you some of the other “classic” core moves I incorporate in my client’s fitness programs as well as my own. (I must give a special shout out to the talented Lauren Bachner for capturing the start and finish of each exercise.)

An added bonus: these exercises all fit into the stabilization endurance level of training. This is the level where all fitness newbies should start and all fitness veterans should re-visit to maintain core and joint stability. Aim for two sets of 12-20 reps:

  1. Ball bridge:Once you’ve mastered the two-leg and one-leg floor bridge, this is a great progression of a key core exercise. Training tips: make sure your feet are hip-width apart. Draw in your navel and squeeze your glutes to get your knees in line with your hips and shoulders. Once you’re established the bridge, hold the position for two seconds before lowering your pelvis.
    Hype Gym, New York, NY
    Photos by Lauren Bachner
  2. Prone Iso-Abs (Plank): This remains my all-time favorite core exercise.  Here, I show you the “basic” plank along with a progression, where you add a leg lift. Training tips: In either version, be sure to draw in your navel and squeeze your glutes before you raise your body off the floor to form a straight line from head to toe.  Hold plank position for two to three seconds before dropping to the ground to re-start. 
  3. Side Iso-Ab (Side Plank): I admit, I need to perform this version of the plank more often – and you should too! Training tips: Your elbow should be directly below your shoulder and be sure to draw in your navel and contract glutes before lifting your hips and legs off the ground. Hold the plank for two to three seconds before lowering back to start position. 

Please note, I’m not picking on runners. In fact, as someone who isn’t a runner, I have great admiration for people who lace up and pound the pavement in all types of weather. However, a common mistake many runners make is not incorporating enough core work into their fitness program. Your core, the muscles connecting your legs to your hips, spine, and rib cage, works to stabilize your torso when you run and therefore has a significant impact on running form and endurance. A weak core can lead to injuries, particularly in your lower back.

The bottom line is whether you’re a runner, cyclist, dancer, swimmer, or just like to be classified as a “gym rat,” everyone needs a strong core. Why?  Because the core is the region of the body where all movement begins. If you have a weak and unstable core, your body simply can’t move the way it’s supposed to. That’s one of the easiest ways to put yourself at increased risk for injury.

So what are YOUR favorite core moves? Let me know! I’m always looking to share different exercises and activities that can help exercise lovers of all ages and skill levels have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

About LauraLovesFitness

After spending more than 10 years in the communications industry, this lifetime fitness lover and newly certified fitness professional wants to share my passion for health and well-being with others.

Posted on July 18, 2012, in Fitness, Health and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Luv these Core Exercises and so do my clients ! Can’t get enough and by keeping that core strong it makes every exercise more productive and easier too perform!!!

    • Thanks, John! I enjoy all exercises that challenge our core stability. It’s amazing how you can take a “simple” chest bench press and move it to a stability ball and WHAM! Talk about feeling a change in the exercise dynamics! Happy Workout Wednesday!

  2. Morning, Laura! My favorite core exercise is the plank. You’re not likely to strain your body or injure any joints and I like that your back is kept nice and straight. Another one I used to like (and I don’t know the name) is where you either hang from a chin-up bar and raise your knees to your chest, or use that contraption where your forearms are on the pads and your feet are dangling and do the same move. It’s hard, but I think I liked it because it was fun to just let your body hang and dangle your feet for a bit. 🙂

    • Hi Jennifer! Yes, the plank is probably my favorite, too! And leg raises while suspended from a chin up bar or using a TRX-like “contraption” are good, too, just be careful of the lower back on those. (Sometimes people “swing” instead of using their core muscles to pull the legs to the body.) But I agree, dangling is always a nice break for a few seconds! Happy Workout Wednesday!

  3. OMG! I think that they are going to put core on my tombstone i say it sooooooo often in class! Some of my faves are planks on the hands both prone and side! I also love going from the hands to the elbows in prone position. Add a little row with a reach to the ceiling with some weight and you add resistance to the whole core exercise…not to mention a little shoulder and back! YUMMY! xo

    • You are too funny, Amy! I’ll remember that when people are wondering about to write about you many moons from now! And yes, adding resistance can make core exercises that much more challenging and fun. Bring it on, baby!

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  5. Hi I Love The Article It Was Very Helpful! You Are An Amazing Trainer! Thank You Again For The Help! I Wish You All The Success In The World With Your Wishes&Dreams!

    • Hello Angela,
      Thank you for your kind feedback. I’m so glad you found the article helpful. If you have any other questions, that’s what I’m here for! Thank you also for signing up to follow my blog. Wishing you a wonderful weekend! 🙂

  6. antoniofernandez221

    Thanks Laura. I am a runner. This is great information. I will definitely read more.

    • Hello Antonio,
      Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you found the information helpful. I have met many runners with lower back issues who find relief once they focus on strengthening his or her core. Let me know how it goes and keep enjoying that runner’s high! Have a great day!

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