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More Core

Photo by Leslie Hassler

Thanks to an inquiry from Erin, a friend from my “old” life as a TV reporter, I kick off month five of LauraLovesFitness.com by re-addressing one topic that is crucial to an effective and safe exercise program: core training.

Erin is getting back into her exercise groove and hopes strengthening her core will help alleviate some of the lower back pain she experiences doing everyday things like carrying her little ones around. As you other busy moms can relate to, she doesn’t have tons of time to dedicate to core training so she’s looking for no-nonsense core exercises.

Before I offer my three favorite exercises, here are a couple of important reminders:

  1. If you have severe lower back pain, make sure you get to a doctor and rule out any serious injury before starting core training or any type of exercise program.
  2. In case you forgot why core training is so important for women and men of all ages: the core is the region of the body where all movement begins and where we find our center of gravity. So, in the simplest terms, if you have a weak or unstable core, your body can’t move the way it’s supposed to. That’s one of the easiest ways to put yourself at increased risk for injury.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I present my core favorites:

  • The Bridge – strengthens the glutes and stabilizes the lower back muscles.
  • The Plank – makes all your core muscles work to keep your spine in line.
  • The Crunch – works those abs!

If you’re like Erin and getting started on a program, attack the first week with one to two sets of each of the above-mentioned exercises, aiming for 12 to 20 reps. Before you start any of the exercises, make sure to draw your belly-button in toward your spine and continue to do throughout the duration of the exercises. Don’t rush through the reps to get a high number done. It’s better to perform 12 reps in perfect form than 15 sloppy ones. Perform the entire core circuit (all three exercises) on two to three non-consecutive days during the week. In week two and beyond, continue to add reps until you can do three sets of 25 reps.

What’s great about these exercises is that you can do them anywhere. As you progress in your routine and want to add an extra challenge, a stability ball may be just what you need. When you do get to the point when 25 reps get too easy (and you WILL get there!), here’s a link I like from SHAPE magazine that can help take you to the next level.

There are many other ways to strengthen the core, including boxing (one of my all-time favorite activities!), but hopefully these exercises offer a good starting point. I’d love to hear what kinds of exercises you use in your core routine as part of your efforts to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
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