As a Personal Trainer, I love to get the core involved in as many exercises as I can. The core is such an important part of our body that we often don’t exercise as much as we should. Why? Number one, because it can be tricky to workout, and Number two, because we don’t think it is as important as it truly is.
Having a strong core, including strengthened abdominals and a strong lower back, is essential in nearly each and every of our human movements.
For example, feel your abdominal region. Now lift one leg off the ground. Do you feel your abs tighten? Now lean to one side. Do you feel the lateral (side) portions of your abs and your lower back activate? Now start walking. Do you feel your back and your abs flex with each step you take? See, your core is fundamental in all of our human movements.
That’s because our core is like the trunk of a tree. As the limbs of our bodies extend outward like the limbs of a tree, our trunk (core) must remain steady to keep everything in balance, therefore keeping us from tipping over and falling down. This is why you will see your stability, balance, and coordination improve the more you work your entire core.
Some of my new-found favorite core exercises that I have been implementing into my own workouts involve standing. Why? Because standing further increases the activation of our core when we go through these exercises, just as how our core is activated when we walk.
Take a look at the descriptions of these six standing core exercises and implement them into your next workout:
For each of these, grab a medicine ball of a weight that is comfortable yet challenging for you!
Ribbons (Wood Chop)
Start standing with your shoulders back in proper posture and your feet shoulder-width apart. Holding the medicine ball with both hands, extend your arms completely and hold the ball at your right hip, twisting with your core keeping your feet facing forward. Then, use your core to bring your extended arms directly above your head, holding for a brief moment. Use your core to twist and bring your extended arms down to your left hip. Hold for a second. Use the same technique to bring the medicine ball above your head again and then down to your right hip. That is one rep.
Do 10-20 reps for 3 sets with 30 seconds of rest between each set.
While standing shoulder-width apart with proper posture, holding the medicine ball in both hands, extend your arms then lift your arm above your head. Slowly lean to right using your core. Then, slowly lean back up to the starting position, pausing for a moment before using your core to lean to the left. Return to the starting position. That is one rep.
Do 10-20 reps for 3 sets with 30 seconds of rest between each set. Remember to really emphasize your core when doing this exercise.
This photo shows the side twist with throw. The side twist can be completed without the throw, as described below.
Begin standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and with a slight bend in the knees. Holding the medicine ball with both hands, bring the ball to your right hip. Then, using your core, bring the ball up and to your left as if you were throwing it to a partner standing ten feet away. Next, bring the ball to your left hip and repeat the same motion, this time bringing the ball up and to your right. This is one rep.
Do 10-20 reps for 3 sets with 30 seconds of rest between each set. Remember that this is a core exercise, so you should mainly be using your core to do the motions rather than any other muscle group.
For an added challenge, grab a partner and actually throw the ball to them as they stand ten feet away. Have them throw the ball back to you and use your core to continue the exercise from the other side of your body as mentioned in the description above. This will further engage your core. Plus, it makes for some added fun.
For the one-handed toss, begin in a standing athletic position with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in the knees. Hold the ball in your right hand, then toss the ball across the front of your body, catching it in your left hand, all while contracting your abdominal muscles. Throw the ball in the same manner back to your right side, catching it in your right hand.
Do this for 30 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds; that is one set. Perform 3 sets.
To make this exercise more challenging, increase the speed of the exercise and throw the ball higher and further away from your body while contracting your abs to further engage them. Just be sure anyone around you is in a safe distance.
Standing Russian Twists
To do the twist, begin with your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your back straight in good posture. Have a slight bend in your knees. Holding the medicine ball in both hands, extend your arms in front of you. Then, using your core, slowly rotate your arms, bringing the ball all the way to the right side of your body, pausing for a moment. Rotate back to the front of your body and continue on, rotating with your core all the way to the left side of your body. Pause for a moment, then return to holding the ball in front of you. This is one rep.
Do 10-20 reps for 3 sets with 30 seconds of rest between each set. Remember to deeply engage your core.
Side dips can be completed with a medicine ball, although a dumbbell might work the best and might be the most comfortable for you.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the medicine ball or the dumbbell in your right hand. You can place your left hand behind your head in order to keep your shoulders back. Using your core, lean down toward your right side with your lateral (side) abdominal muscles. Straighten back up using these same muscles. That is one rep on your right side.
Once you have done 10-20 reps on your right side, contracting your core as much as you can, switch the weight to your left hand, keeping your right hand behind your head and repeating the same movement. Do 10-20 reps on your left side as well. This is one set.
Do 3 sets with 30 seconds of rest between each set.
With these six standing core exercises, you will now be able to strengthen, tighten, and build your entire core even further than you have been able to do before. Shortly, you will see your stability, balance, and coordination improve, subsequently improving your overall life balance!
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