Strengthening your core is about more than just doing crunches. For a fully integrated core workout, you’ll need to incorporate exercises that hit all four of the muscle groups making up the abdominals as well as the muscles of the lower back and pelvic floor. According to David Lemburg at Total-Lifetime-Fitness.com, benefits of core training include stabilizing and supporting the lower back, flattening your stomach, improving balance and coordination, and decreasing lower back pain. This article will provide you with 2 specific routines to choose from, each of which will utilize an optimum number of the muscle groups listed above. Aim for 2-3 core workouts per week.
Core Workout #1
- Planks: Begin lying face-down on the floor with legs straight and elbows propped directly under shoulders. Lift your weight onto elbows and toes so that your body forms a straight line and is held off the floor. Making sure to keep abs and glutes pulled in, hold this position as long as you can (ideally 30+ seconds).
- Crunches with Knees Elevated: Lie on your back as you would for crunches, but hold your legs in the air with knees over hips and bent 90 degrees (for less difficulty, draw knees closer to chest). Keep your low back on the floor and chest and elbows open. Look straight up and exhale as you crunch; inhale as you lower. Perform 20-25 crunches.
- Supine Knee Twists: Maintain crunch position with knees at 90 degrees, but spread your arms straight out to either side. Keeping both shoulder blades on the floor, inhale and slowly rotate hips to the right, dropping your knees as far as you can toward the ground. Exhale and slowly bring knees back up; repeat on the left side. Do 8-10 reps each direction.
- Pelvic Bridges: Next, bring your arms to your sides and place feet flat on the floor with knees bent and heels close to hips. Keeping feet and knees together, exhale while tilting pelvis under (so that low back presses into floor) and then lift hips until they form a straight line with your knees and shoulder blades. Pause at the top; then inhale and lower to starting position, releasing the pelvic tilt when you hit the floor so that your spine returns to its neutral position. Perform 10-15 reps.
- Supermans: Turn onto your stomach with legs straight and arms extended overhead (picture Superman flying). Looking straight down at the floor, draw abs in and lift your left arm and right leg a few inches off the ground. Pause at the top; then return to starting position and repeat with right arm and left leg. Keep your core muscles tight to avoid rocking to either side. Perform 10-12 reps each side.
Core Workout #2
- Plank with Knee Tucks: Get into a raised push-up position, on toes with hands aligned under shoulders. Keeping abs and glutes drawn in and maintaining a straight line, exhale and draw right knee in toward chest; inhale and return to start position. Repeat with left knee. Perform 10-15 reps each side.
- Seated Twists: Sit on the floor with knees bent, feet flat on the ground, abs drawn in, and pelvis tucked. Lean back as far as you comfortably can, clasp hands in front of chest, and twist side to side, rotating from the waist and not the hips (your knees should barely move). Perform 10-15 reps each side.
- Bicycles: Get into the start position for Crunches with Knees Elevated. Exhale and extend right leg straight out while crunching right shoulder (not elbow) toward bent left knee; inhale and return to start position. Repeat on opposite side. Perform 10-12 reps each side
- Dead Bugs: Lie back on the floor with legs straight in the air above your hips and arms straight in the air above your shoulders. Keep abs drawn in tightly and low back in contact with the floor so you don’t rock side to side. Inhale and lower your left arm (behind your head) and your right leg toward the floor; exhale and bring them back up to the start position. Repeat with right arm and left leg. Do 8-10 reps each side.
- Reverse Planks: Still lying on your back, prop heels up on a sturdy chair or coffee table with legs straight. With your arms at your sides and shoulder blades in contact with the floor, tuck pelvis under and lift hips off the ground (as you would for Pelvic Bridges) until your body is in a straight line from shoulder blades to heels. Keep abs and glutes pulled in and hold this position as long as you can (ideally 30+ seconds).
Remember: Strengthening exercises alone will not help you reduce belly fat. These workouts need to be done in conjunction with a proper diet, cardio exercise, and a full-body strength-training regimen to achieve optimum results.