Core muscles are some of the weakest muscle groups on women, even though it’s a set of muscles we use in most of our daily activities. Years of bad form and improper posture weaken the muscles and cause pain where we don’t need it (and definitely don’t want it).
If you continuously experience lower back pain or know you have weak stomach muscles, you should incorporate abdominal and back exercises into your routines at least 3-4 days a week. Before starting any new exercise routine, especially with preexisting conditions, be sure to consult your physician.
The 10 moves below are exercises that directly work the core muscles or are total body moves that keep the core engaged throughout the whole sequence. Proper form is of the utmost importance. Before adding additional reps or extra challenges with weights or other equipment (stability ball, medicine ball, resistance bands, etc.), be sure you have mastered the simplest form of the move.
Combine these moves with proper nutrition and you’ll be whittling your middle in no time!
1. Forearm Plank with Alternating Hip Drops
(1) Get into forearm plank position. Keep your abs tight and make sure your body is in a straight line from head to ankles.
(2) Drop your right hip towards the floor, return to center and then repeat with your left hip.
(3) Alternate sides for 60 seconds.For an easier modification, drop your knees and perform the move.
2. Side Crunch
(1) Start by lying on the floor face up with your knees together and bent at a 90-degree angle. Without moving your upper body, lower your knees to the right side so that they’re touching the floor. Place your fingers behind your head.
(2) Raise your shoulders toward your hips, pause for one second, and then take two seconds to lower your upper body back to the starting position.
(3) Perform this move for 30 seconds and then switch your legs to the other side for an additional 30 seconds.
3. Side Plank
(1) Lie on your left side with your right leg stacked on top of your left leg. Prop your upper body up on your left arm, keeping your hand directly below your shoulder. Keep your core tight and contracted.
(2) Lift your hips up until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders.
(3) That’s one set. Complete one set on your left side for 30 seconds.
(4) Turn around so that you’re lying on your right side and repeat for 30 seconds.For an easier modification, drop to your elbow, pushing off your forearm and/or use your leg closest to the ground as a kickstand for additional support.
4. Pilates Sit Up
(1) Lie down on your mat, chest up. Extend your legs with your toes pointing up and extend your arms straight back past your head.
(2) Keeping your arms straight, lift them over your head so they are even with your shoulders.
(3) Raise your head, shoulders and upper body toward the ceiling. Keep your body in as much of a straight line as you can. Avoid arching your back. Lead with your chest, not your head. Your upper body should move as a unit.
(4) Your arms should remain straight in front of your shoulders as you sit up to a 90-degree angle. Pause at the top seated position.
(5) Slowly lower back down, curling your back towards the floor, taking it vertebrae by vertebrae. Once your back is flat, return your arms to the floor behind your head. That is one repetition.
(6) Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
5. Bicycle Crunch
(1) Lie on back with knees and hips at a 90-degree angle. Place hands behind your head. Exhale as you lift head and shoulders off the floor. Twist torso to the right, bringing left shoulder in to touch your right knee. Keep left leg straight and lifted off the floor.
(2) Inhale as you slowly lower. Repeat, twisting torso to the left.
(3) Continue alternating sides for 60 seconds.For an easier modification, feet can return to the floor after each rep.