Abs, core or midsection — whatever you call it, it should never be forgotten!
You guessed it, this week we’re looking at core strength, focusing on the many layers of your abdomen. Before we jump straight in, let’s take a quick look at what it is we’re working out. There are six core muscles going from your naval all the way back to your spine.
Spine? Yes, your back is key to working your core. Strong core equals strong back; strong back means a strong core. They work together to keep you standing upright throughout your everyday life. Also good to note: the abs are one of the only muscles you can work everyday because they are just that important! If you take a closer look at the six types of core muscle you’ll see the many different jobs they do:
- Rectus Abdominus: More commonly known as the “six- pack” ab, it is most visible when you have decreased body fat.
- External Obliques: Also known as the ‘side muscles’, they wrap around from your rib cage down to your waist.
- Internal Obliques: Are just under the external obliques running in the opposite direction.
- Transverse Abdominus: The deepest core muscle, underneath the obliques. It wraps around the spine at your waist, and helps stabilize and protect the spine.
- Multifidus Muscle: A core muscle deep in the spine, protecting the vertebrae and joints.
- Erector Spinae: this bundle of three muscles runs from your neck to your low back along the spine. This is the muscle in the low back area most commonly felt when do core exercises.
Getting To The Core
Please go at your own pace and rest when your body tells you to. If you have pre-existing lower back pain, take extra caution and do the modifications. To warm up, do a few sun salutations to get the body ready.
1. Navāsana (Boat Pose)
- Sitting on the floor, knees bent, feet flat on the ground. Lightly touch the back of your knees with your fingertips. Keeping a straight spine, hinge yourself back from your tailbone and pick up your feet. Extend your legs and reach through your toes. Let go of your knees and reach through your fingertips. Soften your gaze and lift your chest. Draw your navel into your spine.
- Hold for five breaths. Rest and come back four more times. This is working your entire core.
Modification: If you have lower back issues, keep your toes touching the ground and your hands gently touching the back of your knees. Slowly hinge back to engage your core and go only as far as your body allows.
Amp It Up: Try these Boat Roll-Outs for some added core work.
2. Eka Pada Adho Mukha Śvānāsana (Three-Legged Downward Dog)
- Begin on all fours with your knees hip-width apart and your hands shoulder-width apart. Make sure your hips are directly over your knees and your shoulders over your wrists. Walk your hands a few inches in front of your shoulders and curl your toes under. Lift your hips, and straighten your legs as best you can.
- Once there, push into your palms and fingers to draw more energy into your lower body and help elevate your pelvis. Push down primarily between the index knuckle and thumb. Keep your arms straight and rotate your outer upper arms inward to broaden your back. Lift one leg up in the air, making sure to keep your hips square to the floor.
- Hold for five breaths before switching sides. Really focus on pulling your core into your spine, this will help stabilize you and build your core strength.
Amp It Up: Try these Down Dog Crunches to really work that core! Do ten reps on each side.
3. Utthita Chaturanga Dandāsana (Plank)
- From Adho Mukha Śvānāsana, bring your chest forward so your shoulders are stacked above your wrists. Firm your triceps and your shoulders blades down your back by pressing the ground away. Draw your navel to spine. Draw your tailbone towards your heels and firm your thighs. Lengthen from the crown of your head to the heels and gaze at the floor.
- Hold for ten slow, deep breaths. This is one of those rare exercises that works every single part of your body, along with your major core muscles. Hold strong!
Amp It Up? Try these Spider-Man Planks that will hit those obliques and trim the waist! Do ten reps on each side.
4. Forearm Plank
- From Utthita Chaturanga Dandāsana lower down onto your forearms. Make sure your shoulders are stacked over your elbows and your palms are flat on the ground. Draw your shoulder blades down your back and navel to your spine.
- Hold for three slow breaths. Slowing it down a bit. I’m sure you are feeling all these by now!
Amp It Up? Try these Hip Twists to further work your obliques, core, and stability. Do five twists to each side, a total of ten reps all together.
These moves will really rely on your mūla bandha (lower abdomen muscles) to lift you off the ground!
5. Lolasana (Pendant Pose)
- Start in Virāsana (Hero’s Pose). Place your hands on the ground next to your knees, directly underneath your shoulders. Press through your hands and spread your shoulder blades as far as you can from your spine. Draw your navel up into your spine and lift your knees off the ground. Make sure you are tucking them towards your chest and feet towards your bottom.
- Hold for three breaths and repeat three times.
Modification: If you need a little extra lift off, add blocks under your hands at any level to help boost you up!
6. Tolāsana (Scale Pose)
- This pose takes Lolāsana to the next level. You will start in Padmāsana (Lotus Pose). Place your hands on the ground next to your knees, directly underneath your shoulders. Press through your hands and spread your shoulder blades as far as you can from your spine. Draw your navel up into your spine. Lift your bottom off the ground and draw your knees upwards. This will help engage your core and lift you off more.
- Hold for three steady breaths.
Modification: Place blocks under your hands to give more lift.
Sweet Release — You’re Done!
Hope you enjoyed this fun cardio flow! Did you Amp It Up? Did you try the bonus moves? Let me know what you thought and if you have favorite core moves. Be sure to tune in next week for a fun cardio flow to really get your heart pumping and the sweat dripping! In the meantime, check out these other flows that target different areas of your body.