Melissa Benavidez

Working your core is about more than getting a nice, flat stomach or a full-out six pack. Working your core will help improve your posture and give you the strength to take your workouts to the next level.  These exercises focus on strengthening the core while improving stability and balance.

When starting a core workout program you first need to understand the importance of keeping proper form to ensure you are working the right muscles.  If your form is correct, you should feel your abdominal muscles working the entire time. So often I see people working out and not seeing the results they are hoping for due to improper form. When I train the Rio Rancho High School football team I take about 3-weeks where we focus entirely on core. During the three weeks I take one day to focus on form and then push them to their limit the remaining four days of the week. This helps the players learn proper form and teaches them to focus on the muscles they are working, ensuring they are getting the full benefit of the exercise.

When you strengthen your core you improve your posture and balance. Proper posture can result in a decrease in back pain and puts the muscles you have been working hard for on display. The main muscle of the core is the rectus abdominus and is the muscle closest to the skin. The rectus abdominus stabilizes your spine while your obliques (the muscles that run along the side of your abdomen) help to bend and rotate your torso. Included in the core are your lower back, hips, and glutes.

These four exercises will help you get started on a stronger, more stable core. The exercises are dynamic (involving movement) and are perfect for beginners. Start with 3 sets of 10 reps using your own body weight and aim for 3 times a week.  You can incorporate the exercises into weight-training workouts by doing them between sets to keep your heart rate up.

Here are a few of my favorites to begin with:

Abs: lay flat on your back make sure your back is flat on the ground (no curve in the lower back).  Hands by your sides palms up, raise your right leg about 45 degrees off the ground hold it there and lift your torso like in a crunch (make sure to keep your back straight and look at the ceiling or sky) this will be a small movement but will focus on the core.  10-15 reps and then switch and do it with your left leg.

Obliques:  get into a side plank, with your right on the back of your head engage your abs and rotate down until your elbow touches the ground.  Make sure to keep your abs tight.  Make sure to have slow and controlled movements.  10 reps each side

This last one counts as two: this is by far my favorite, start in a push up, extend your arms make sure to keep your back straight, your body will be at an angle.  Start with your right leg bring in your knee to your chest make sure to squeeze your abs when you do this, then extend your leg  back out straight make sure to let the leg fall.  10 reps each side.


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