By Chrissy Fink
Having a strong core is essential for power, balance, stability and even lower back health. Traditional sit-ups, however, primarily target the central abdominal muscles – largely ignoring your equally essential oblique muscles. Not wanting to leave any part of our bodies ignored, though, here we have 3 moves to help you strengthen and tone those outer-most abdominal muscles. Add these moves to your usual (or non-existent) ab series or do them on their own for an easy, no-equipment-required exercise routine and you’ll see the results in no time – and not just when you look in the mirror.
Low Plank Crawl
Start in plank position. (Your body should be in a traditional push-up position with your toes curled under you in order to lift your legs and hips off the mat. Legs stay straight and strong while your body remains in a straight line. Rest on your forearms with your elbows in line with your shoulders and palms spread wide.) Remaining in this plank position, bring your right knee up to meet your right elbow and then place it back down before switching sides. Make sure to keep your hips square with the mat (no rocking back and forth or side to side). As your strength and balance improves, work to increase your speed and number of repetitions. And remember: you can always pause on your knees when you need a rest.
V- Sit Bicycle
Sit upright with your feet flat on the ground in front of you so you make a V with your upper body and the tops of your legs. Place your hands either in front of you (next to your thighs) or, if you are more advanced, on the back of your head. Lift your legs up into table-top position (so your calves are parallel to the floor) and bicycle your legs. Engage your core to keep your upper body stable as you press your heels out in front of you one at a time, straightening one leg out in front of you as the other leg comes back in. You should feel your obliques working each time your knee comes.
Start in a high plank position (like above but, instead of resting on your forearms, keep your palms flat on the mat directly under your shoulders, like at the top of a push up). With your tummy pulled in tight, legs straight and hips up (but not too high), hop both legs up towards the outside of your right arm to bring your knees close to your right elbow (to target that right oblique). Hop back to center and repeat on the left.
These three exercises will really give you a bang for your buck in working your core, back and heart. So, grab your mat or a towel and get started. And remember: these can be done anywhere!! No equipment, just commitment!
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