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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!

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