By Alexis Wolfer

2011 is bound to be the year of the core. Everyone is talking about it. Whether you’re a runner, cyclist, yogi or just a midriff-bearing babe, you want a toned, tight core. Not only is a toned midsection aesthetically desired though, but also it helps us protect our lower backs from injuries too. To help us get our cores chiseled (well, more chiseled than they are now!), we asked Tiffanie Barton of F.F.I.T. LIFE to help us out.

Here’s what Tiffanie had to say…

We all love the look of a sleek midsection, but attaining one is hard work.  Most people feel that endless crunches and those ridiculous abdominal machines will whittle their core into a masterpiece.  Think again!  Defined core muscles can be attributed to three factors: a healthy diet, good genetics and the proper core exercises.  Unfortunately, having a “clean” diet all the time can be difficult, and having great genetics is out of our control.  Luckily, it is within reach to perform the proper exercises to strengthen our core on a weekly basis.  The question you are probably asking yourself is, if it is almost impossible to control how defined our abs appear, what is the purpose of strengthening them?

With strong core muscles, we have better posture, less back pain and are able to perform daily movements functionally and with greater ease.  Our core is made up of our abdominals, back muscles, shoulder and hip rotators, the trunk of the body.  The core muscles are the deep muscles that lie close to the spine and support its structure.

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With a few simple exercises performed 3x per week, you can strengthen your core to attain both strength and definition.

Front plank: On your elbows and toes, hold your body in a flat position.  Begin with a 30sec. hold.  Hold for longer as you get stronger.

Side planks: Lie on your side, prop yourself up on your elbow with your legs straight.  Hold for 20-30sec. Work to hold both poses for 60 secs.

Opposite arm and leg raise:  In a quadruped position (on your hands and knees) , extend left arm and right  leg, keeping core strong and keeping your balance.  Bring same arm and leg into the center, tap elbow to knee and extend back out to horizontal.  Do 12-15reps on each side before switching sides.  Repeat 2-3sets.

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Bridges: Lying on your back, with your knees propped up, position arms flat along body.  Press off of elbows, lift hips to ceiling and squeeze glutes. Return back to starting position, repeat 15x.  Do 2-3sets.

Transverse abdominus breathing:  Seated in a chair or on a stability ball, take a deep breath in and fill stomach so it extends outward.  Exhale and brace stomach and feel your abdominals return to flat.  Repeat 15x, 2 sets.

Woodchops: (With a medicine ball or with a dumbbell), stand with feet shoulder width apart, holding medicine ball with both hands in the lower left corner.  Squat keeping ball in same position.  As you stand from the squat, lift medicine ball to the upper right corner in a diagonal line across the body.  Squat back down, bring medicine ball to lower left corner, and continue to repeat 15 times on same side.  Repeat on other side.  Complete 2-3 sets.

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