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Revealed: The 6 Best Beginner’s Exercises for You to Get a Strong Core

Revealed: The 6 Best Beginner’s Exercises for You to Get a Strong Core

Ab season is quickly approaching. For some, it’s a time for lazy days spent in a bikini or a breezy shirtless run at sunset. For others, it’s a time for weak dieting attempts and sad, sporadic bouts of ab exercises. The result, most likely, will be a two pack (if you’re lucky) by summer’s end.

This article is for those of us who want to look good and find ourselves frustrated by the never-ending quest for the perfect midsection.

What Exactly Do We Mean by Core Muscles?

The abs (a.k.a. the abdominal muscles) are only a small fraction of your core muscles.[1] Your core is a complex series of muscles that includes your entire trunk region. It involves everything except your arms and legs. It is involved in almost every movement of the human body.

The diagram below gives a general overview of the muscles that make up your core:

    Having A Strong Core Isn’t Just for Looking Great. It Has Much to Do with Your Health!

    Our core has three-dimensional depth and functionality. Many of the core muscles are hidden beneath the exterior musculature, underpinning everything you do.

    Here are a few health benefits of having a strong core:

    • It prevents back injury and eliminates back pain. Your core is your body’s stabilizer. Most back pain and injuries are caused by postural alignment problems[2] or poor posture. Poor posture is the result of weak lower back muscles.[3] A strong core is your spine’s best friend.
    • It helps you perform everyday functions more efficiently and without pain. No matter where motion begins, it flows up and down the adjoining links of the chain – which is your core. Weak or inflexible core muscles can impair how well your arms and legs function. The ability to bend down to put on shoes, turn and look behind you, sit in a chair, take a bath, dress yourself, or simply stand still all heavily depend on your core.
    • It improves posture. Weak core muscles contribute to slouching. Maintaining good posture is important because it lessens wear and tear on the spine and assists in your ability to breathe deeply.
    • It improves athletic performance. Strengthening your core makes your workout more effective and efficient. A strong flexible core provides stability, prevents injury, and improves your range of motion.
    • It improves physical appearance. Having a great physique isn’t and shouldn’t be the top reason for having a strong core, but it definitely is a motivator. A firm and flexible midsection makes you look taller, thinner, stronger, and more confident.

    Common Core Myths You Need to Stop Believing

    Now that you understand why having a strong, flexible core is important, you’re probably ready to hop on the floor and start banging out some crunches.

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    Slow down tiger. Before you begin working on your abs let’s discuss some popular misconceptions on training your core.

    • Core strengthening exercises are the key to flat abs. Abs don’t come from the gym; they come from the kitchen.[4] The portion of the abs that are visible (or that you want to be visible) are hidden beneath a layer of fat. This means you have to reduce your body fat. This is done by exercising and by eating clean. Eliminate processed foods and follow this one simple rule: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.
    • Sit-ups and crunches are the key to great abs. Huffington Post writer Ben Greenfield[5] gave the perfect illustration on why crunches are not only ineffective but harmful to your back over an extended period of time. He says,

    “Imagine your spine is a credit card. In the same way that repeatedly flexing and extending a credit card will eventually lead to wearing out of the plastic, repeatedly doing crunches can put damaging strain on your back.”

    • Isolation exercises work best. Wrong! Your core is the body’s stabilizer and force transfer center and not a primary mover.[6] This means instead of doing hundreds of isolated exercises such as crunches or back extensions you should perform functional, compound movements like deadlifts, overhead squats, and pushups.

    Best Core Exercises for Beginners

    Now you know what your core is, understand how it functions, and are eating clean, it’s time to hit the gym! Below are some of the best core exercises for newbies:

    1. Low Plank

      The plank is one of the best exercises you can do for your core because it builds isometric strength and helps sculpt your waistline and improve your posture. It is a 360 core toner, meaning that it targets the muscles all the way around the core. It also targets your glutes and shoulders.

      During this exercise remember to keep your breathing slow and controlled. Try to maintain a straight line from your head to your toes.

      How to:

      • Start in pushup position on the floor.
      • Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders, and your body should form a straight line from your head to your feet.
      • Hold the position for as long as possible being careful not to allow your hips to raise or sink.
      • Try to maintain a straight line. Your goal should be to work up to holding it for two minutes.

      Modification: Standard Plank form is a great modification for this move (remain in pushup position with hands positioned directly beneath your shoulders).

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      2. Bird Dog Crunch

      Bird Dog Crunch strengthens the lower back and abdominals while improving balance and stability.

      The first tip in practicing Bird Dog Crunch is to make sure you are on a mat or soft surface. During the movement be mindful of your breathing. Inhale as you tuck under and exhale while extending your opposite arm and leg out. Make sure that as you extend your arm and leg you are tucking your belly button in to keep your back strong and stable. Also try and be as still as possible as you move. Don’t allow your back to move side to side.

      How To:

      • Kneel on the mat on all fours. Reach one arm straight forward, drawing in the abs, and extend the opposite leg straight behind you, keeping it in the air.
      • Then bring the elbow and knee in towards your center. Try to get them to touch. As you round your back remember to draw in your abs. Repeat 10 reps then switch sides.

      Modification: When extending your leg behind you allow, it to touch the floor.

      3. Standing Bicycle Crunch

      This move targets the obliques and rotational trunk muscles. It also improves balance and coordination. Because this is a standing move, it lowers the risk of neck strain and lower back injury.

      When preforming the Standing Bicycle Crunch be sure to keep your abs tight through out the entire movement. Also, this move should be performed in a slow and controlled manner. The slower you go the harder your abs work.

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      How To:

      • Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward.
      • Place your fingertips behind your neck with your elbows pointing out to the sides, in line with your shoulders. Inhale and contract (tighten) your core.
      • Raise your right knee up across the body as high as you can to your chest. Simultaneously twist your torso to the right and draw your left elbow toward the lifted knee so that you can feel the crunch. Exhale during the movement.

      Modification: Perform the move with one hand against the wall.

      4. Alternating Seated Leg Lifts

      Seated leg lifts work your abdominals, lower abdominal region, pelvic muscles, and your hamstrings.

      When performing this move be careful not to hold your breath and try not to lean back to far.

      How To:

      • Sit on the floor, legs extended straight out in front of you. Keeping your core engaged, lean back slightly, so you’re able to place your hands on either side of your glutes.
      • Take a deep breath and lift one leg six inches off the ground and hold for five seconds, and then put it down. Repeat with the other leg.
      • Continue alternating for one minute, then rest for 20 seconds. Repeat for five rounds.

      Modification: Alternate lifting your legs without stopping to hold.

      5. Spider Plank Crunch

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      The Spider Plank Crunch is another 360 core exercise. It targets the entire abdominal region (upper and lower), the obliques, lower back, and the glutes.

      Try not to allow your hips to sink or raise when you are bringing your knee to your elbow. Also, fight to keep your body parallel at all times.

      How To:

      • Begin in a high plank or pushup position – hands directly underneath your shoulders, legs extended backward with your toes on the ground. Body is in a straight line.
      • Lift your right leg and bring your knee toward the outside of your right arm. Return to plank position.
      • Repeat the movement with the other leg. Do five reps on each side.

      Modification: Begin in modified pushup position (both knees on the ground) and perform the move from your knees.

      6. Modified Bicycle Crunch

        This move targets the upper and lower abs, the obliques, and hip-flexors. It also targets the “posture muscles” and incorporates small amounts of balance.

        When doing this movement, remember to keep it smooth. The movement should be slow and controlled. Try not to jerk or over-twist your torso. Exhale when you crunch in and inhale on the extension.

        How To:

        • Start in a neutral sitting position. Your knees should be bent, heels flat on the floor and hands on either side of your head.
        • Bring the right knee and left elbow toward one another, by gently twisting the torso.
        • Repeat the motion on the other side. Alternate for 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat. Complete five rounds.

        Modification: Place hands on the ground behind you instead of behind your head.

        Performing these exercises a few times a week along with small amounts of aerobic exercise and a proper diet will yield you a stronger core and a leaner, tighter torso.

        Reference

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        Denise Hill

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        Published on June 7, 2019

        10 Lower Body Workouts Anyone Can Try at Home

        10 Lower Body Workouts Anyone Can Try at Home

        Having a hard time going to the gym? Fear no more!

        In this article, we’ll be breaking down 10 in home lower body workouts anyone can try at home and their exercises. No gear needed for these workouts, just some space and a cup water waiting for your disposal.

        There’re 3 main parts in this article:

        If you’re familiar with the basic lower body exercises, just get into the first section 10 Lower Body Workouts That Can Be Done Anywhere right away.

        If you want more guidance on the basics, check out the second section Lower Body Exercises Breakdown.

        And the last section is about what you should do before and after working out.

        10 Lower Body Workouts That Can Be Done Anywhere

        If you’re familiar with the basic lower body exercises, just read on this section.

        If you’d like to have more guidance on each exercise listed in these 10 workouts, take a look at the following part Lower Body Exercises Breakdown.

        1. The Starter Workout

        3 sets of 8-12 reps of:

        • Squat
        • Single Leg Deadlift
        • Glute Bridge

        (30 sec to 2 min rest in between each set)

        2. The 7 Minute Workout

        3 rounds of 30 seconds of each exercise:

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        • Walking Lunges
        • Quarter Squat
        • Step Up
        • Single Leg Deadlift

        (1 min rest in between each round)

        3. The Unilateral Workout

        4 sets of 16 reps of:

        • Reverse Lunges
        • Single Leg Deadlift
        • Skater Squat
        • Single Leg Glute Bridge

        (30 sec to 1 min rest in between each set)

        4. The Endurance Workout

        2 sets of 20-50 reps of:

        • Squat
        • Walking Lunge
        • Single Leg Deadlift
        • Glute Bridge

        (1-2 min rest in between each set)

        5. The Back To Back Lower Body Workout

        5 rounds of 10 to 20 seconds of each exercise:

        • Skater Squat
        • Step Up
        • Single Leg Deadlift
        • Single Leg Glute Bridge
        • Quarter Squat

        (30 min rest in between each round)

        6. Strength Lower Body Workout

        5 to 10 sets of 4 reps of:

        • Walking Lunge
        • Single Leg Deadlift
        • Squat

        (30 sec to 2 mins of rest time in between set)

        7. Glute Burner Workout

        4 sets of 10-30 reps of:

        • Walking Lunge
        • Single Leg Deadlift
        • Single Leg Glute Bridge
        • Quarter Squat

        (1 min of rest time in between set)

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        8. The Advance Lower Body Workout

        3 rounds of 20 seconds of:

        • Squat
        • Walking Lunge
        • Skater Squat
        • Reverse Lunge
        • Glute Bridge
        • Single Leg Deadlift

        (2 mins of rest time in between set)

        9. The Quick Lower Body Workout

        2 sets of 10 reps of:

        • Reverse Lunge
        • Step Up
        • Single Leg Deadlift

        10. The 100 Repetition Challenge

        2 sets of 50 reps on each leg of:

        • Walking Lunge
        • Single Leg Deadlift

        (4 mins of rest time in between set)

        Lower Body Exercises Breakdown

        Here’s the breakdown of the lower body exercises[1] that you found in the workouts listed in the first section of this article.

        1. Squat

          A squat is a compound movement which entails the recruitment of a majority of your lower body (quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteal muscles, spinal erectors).

          How to squat:

          Feet shoulder width apart or a little wider. Toes pointed slightly out, arms out in front of you. Sit into your heels till you hit parallel with your butt and knee, drive through the heels, return to starting position and repeat.

          2. Walking Lunges

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            A lunge is a complex movement which recruits mainly the lower body.

            The walking lunges are a harder version of a split squat which is stationary and then adds the component of stepping and keeping balance which engages the gluteus medius as well as allowing a larger range of motion.

            3. Reverse Lunge

              A reverse lunge is very similar to the split squat but instead, after every rep, you are returning to the starting position and stepping back.

              By reverse stepping, you are allowing for a better emphasis on the hamstrings and gluteal muscles as opposed to the quadriceps muscles in a forward stepping lunge.

              4. Quarter Squat

                A quarter squat is the top ¼ movement of a squat. This will work mainly the gluteal muscles as it emphasizes the hip extension and not a lot of range of motion on the quadriceps muscles.

                5. Skater Squat

                  A skater squat is a unilateral variation of the squat, this squat really engages the gluteus medius and hamstrings as it works unilateral stability and hip flexion which fires both the hamstrings and glutes.

                  6. Step Up

                    The Step Up is the greatest balance of getting the glutes and quadriceps muscles firing. Doing Step Ups will not only get the glutes going, but the quadriceps as well.

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                    7. Glute Bridge

                      Glute Bridges are a great way to nearly isolate the glutes and build a great butt. This entire movement works through hip extension which the main movement of the gluteal muscles.

                      8. Single Leg Glute Bridge

                        Single leg glute bridge ensures that we are evenly building the glutes and not relying too heavily on our dominant leg and symmetrical butt. The step up can be done in a chair or a step in the stairs

                        9. Single Leg Deadlift

                          Single Leg RDL’s engage that entire booty and hamstrings, especially the gluteus medius due to its unilateral stability property. This is a great way to spice up some routine deadlifts.

                          Before & After Working Out

                          Before engaging in any physical activity, consult a doctor if you have not worked out in years. However, if you want to go at it without consulting a doctor, start slow and build your way up. Even though it’s home workout, use dynamic stretching or some light jogging[2] as a warm up before starting the lower body workouts.

                          Finally, at the end of the lower body workout, use static stretching to reduce injuries and to calm down your heart rate gradually.

                          Featured photo credit: Gesina Kunkel via unsplash.com

                          Reference

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