We see them everywhere: staring back at us from covers of fitness magazines, in ads for some new diet pill, on infomercials for some new fitness equipment. They're six pack abs, air brushed or not, the envy of men and women. You don't need a six pack to have strong abs. But, you do get strong abs with a good "core" workout.
You've probably heard the term, "core strength," if you've ever taken a Yoga, Pilates, tai chi or other fitness class, and maybe if you've been training in a sport. Your core is made up of the muscles that support your spine and between your shoulders and pelvis. Ab-strengthening exercises typically only focus on the frontal layer of muscles that could result in the "ripped" look. However, it is more important to learn how to strengthen the underlying muscles that you use in daily activities and even sports.
Imagine a box surrounding your navel. Lying on your back, place your hands to the north and south of your navel. Pull those muscles toward the center. Now place your hands to the east and west of your navel and pull those muscles to the center. It's not easy, is it!
While you're holding the box together, lift your hips up so that you form a plank with your body. Hold everything for 30 seconds, then repeat 10-12 times. When you're really strong, you'll be able to extend one leg, then the other, straight out and hold the position.
Learning this simple core strengthening exercise is what helps keep my body going the distance in a marathon or half marathon, helps prevent injury from doing something simple like vacuuming (which is terribly hard on my back), and can help my heart health, too.
The Core of Heart Health http://health.msn.com/fitness/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100194940
Core Strength Fitness Plan http://training.active.com/TransactionManager/viewPlan.do?tpId=371
Core Exercises with a Fitness Ball http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/core-strength/SM00046
And here's one for you golfers: iPod Fitness - Pod PT Golf Core Strength
Have you found an effective core exercise?
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