It’s that time of year again when elastic waist pants are the preferred wardrobe item. The holidays bring extra calories, hectic schedules and less time to exercise. But fear not, with four simple exercises, you can keep your abdominal muscles in check—if not toned throughout the holidays and well into 2014.
Advantages of a strong core
Core muscles include the abdominal muscles, back muscles and the muscles around the pelvis. Strong core muscles make it easier to do many physical activities like shift our body in any direction or control our movement.
The stronger your trunk, the more support you give your spine. Strengthening your abdominal muscles can help reduce existing lower-back pain and may help prevent future back problems.
Strength in numbers
Even if you’re not looking for six-pack abs, crunches and sit ups are not enough for a strong core. Because your core is comprised of muscles like the transverse and rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques and the multifidus, you need a variety of exercises to build a strong core.
As personal trainer Chad Smith demonstrates on the video, fab abs involve four simple exercises: rotation with the ball; reverse superman; lying ball crunch and the front pillar plank. With Chad’s workout, you’ll only need a fitness ball, also known as a stability ball. Not only is a ball a great tool for toning your abs, but it also spices up your exercise routine. Fitness balls cost between $10-20 and are available at any sporting goods store or large retailer. When selecting a fitness ball, pick one that allows your knees to be at a right angle when you sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor.
1. Rotation with fitness ball works your inner core including your obliques (sides), transverse abdominis (deepest ab muscle) and multifidus (lower back muscle). This routine really kicks your obliques and feels great on the back.
2. Reverse superman works your glutes (buns) and lower back. You’ll feel this exercise in your glutes, hamstrings and lower back.
3. Floor fitness ball crunch exercises your rectus abdominis (your six pack). Feel this routine from the base of your ribs to your belly.
4. Front pillar plank requires you to engage the transverse and rectus abdominis and erector spinae muscles for the 20 to 45 seconds that you hold the position. You should feel this move in your trunk and in your shoulders.
Not only do toned abs look and feel great, but they improve balance and stability. A strong core can result in less falls and sports-related injuries and a healthier back. A better beach physique, a more powerful golf swing or the assurance to stand on a chair and reach a tall cupboard—these four simple exercises pay big dividends.
By: Anne Gill
Sources: Mayoclinic.com and Health.Harvard.edu