The core isn't boring...


Ever pulled a muscle doing the simplest of tasks? Or perhaps you've lost your balance when walking up the stairs or getting out of the shower?

You could put it down to overdoing it on the wakeboard, or to losing your footing on the stairs. But if you're struggling with an unexplained back strain or loss of balance, it's very likely that your core is to blame.

Every girl knows that it's the first place to target if you want to go back to a "normal routine" post pregnancy. And any man who wants to avoid the Homer Simpson tummy, or indeed to keep swinging a 3 wood into their 50s should know that the core needs to be a key focus (a huge percentage of men suffering from back issues sourced them on the sports field whilst women are more likely to get pain from daily activity, particularly post-partum).

Core training is not new. It's just been talked about so much that it's deemed boring. However it shouldn't be. In fact, as the pillar of our inner and outer health, the core should actually be the most exciting part of any training. It steadies our balance, supports effective breathing and precision which relieves stress and builds confidence. It also defines the shape, tone and strength of the abs and lower back. It's the muscular dream ticket.

So, I've outlined a few quick exercises below that are more interesting than your planks and crunches, with the biggest bang for your buck within 6 weeks.

The key things to remember in keeping the core happy is to work it three times a week and engage it daily. ' Not rocket science. Here's how:

Your daily move:

Breathe into your lower lungs on a daily basis: not your shoulders or your tummy. On exhale engage your abs and draw them into your spine. At the same time imagine a piece of string pulling up from the base of your body up to the centre of your diaphragm (imaging that feeling you get when you walk into cold water...!). Repeat this for 10 breaths. As well as practicing this daily, also try this type of breathing throughout all the exercises below.

Twice weekly moves:

1. 10 Commandos: Start in plank position on hands - not elbows. Drop your right elbow to the floor followed by the left elbow, and push right elbow back up followed by the left, back to starting position. Repeat with the opposite arm. (Good for the obliques, rectus abdominis).

2. 10 Leg Circles: A classic Pilates move that's harder than it sounds. Lie on your back with neutral spine. Imprint the spine into floor and engage the core as you lift knees and feet off floor to 90 degrees. In this position draw a circle in the air with both knees, holding onto the floor by your side. If this is easy, stretch one leg up straight into the air at 90 degrees to your body/the floor. Now circle this leg clockwise, drawing a small circle in the air with pointed toes, then circle the other way. After 10 circles forwards and back, swap legs and repeat. (Good for the obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, pelvic floor).

3. 10 Lateral Leg Scissors: Lie on side holding both hands on head, and lower elbow on floor. Ensure your body and legs are in a straight line from your head to your feet. Lift your top leg so you have a tennis ball distance between your knees. Swing your top leg forward and bottom leg backwards until they are about 45 degrees in a "scissor". Swing them back the other way so your top leg comes behind you and bottom in front. (You can have your top hand on the floor in front of you for extra balance if required and can bend the legs as they swing backwards too). After 10, swap sides. (Good for the obliques, rectus abdominis, pelvic floor).

Repeat this circuit x 3.

I PROMISE if you do this for 6 weeks, your core, your back and your six pack will thank you for it. Send your 6 week photos to @balancore via facebook!

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Health is the soul that animates all the enjoyments of life

Lucius Annaeus Seneca