Don’t want to get injured? Having a strong core is going to start you out on the right track. This short workout is a good “core” addition to your weekly training. Also consider a personal trainer or signing up for some Pilates or Yoga classes for more inspiration.
Exercise 1: Cat-Cow
Start in a “table top” position with your back flat and your hands under shoulders, knees under hips.
Cat - On your exhale, gently and slowly arch your back like a mad cat. Pull your belly button back to your spine as you draw your lower rib bones closer to your hip bones.
Cow - On your inhale, drop your belly button toward the floor as your widen your collar bones and spread your sites bones.
Flow through these two poses 10-15 times each. The intent is to slowly wake up your core muscles for the exercises that follow.
Exercise 2: Planks and Push Ups
Start in a front plank position. You can do this from your toes (pictured) or your knees. The suggestions for hold duration are below, it’s better to crush a shorter hold than fall apart in a longer hold.
Front Plank - Hold the front plank for 30 seconds or 1 minute. Keep your spine neutral and gaze pointed slightly in front of your hands. Think about the connection between your lower rib bones and hip bones. Try to stay as “long” as possible - extending through your heels and crown of the head.
Two push-ups (either from knees or toes)
Side Plank - Hold the side plank for 30 seconds or 1 minute. Keep your gaze pointed forward and hips up and in line with your spine. If you want to add extra challenge, throw in some leg lifts. Remember it’s better to crush the simple moves before adding more.
Two push-ups (either from knees or toes)
Other Side Plank - same as the first side plank, just on your other side.
Two push-ups (either from the knees or toes)
Repeat the sequence so you get 2 of each plank!
Exercise 3: Leg Lifts to Table Top
The most important part of this exercise is not the leg lifting, but the connection of your spine with the floor. Set yourself up properly by making yourself comfortable and pressing, especially, your low back against the floor. Think about your belly button drawing back to the floor and your lower ribs drawing toward your upper hip bones. Keep your spine in this position as you work through the rest of the sequence.
Lift Right Leg - On an exhale, as you maintain the strong connection of your spine to the floor, slowly lift your right leg until the shin is parallel to the floor, and your thigh bone is at a right angle to the floor and your body.
Lift Left Leg - Now the tricky part! On your next inhale, Slowly lift your left leg to join your right leg while keeping your upper body totally immobile. Lifting your leg more slowly will add more challenge.
Lower LEFT Leg - Breathing in, lower your LEFT leg slowly back to the mat.
Lower RIGHT Leg - Exhaling, slowly lower your right leg back to the mat. Now you’re back to your starting position.
On your second set, starting by lifting your LEFT leg first. Alternate sides until you’ve completed 10-15 cycles of this exercise. Lift your arms off the floor (at a 90-degree angle to the floor) to add challenge.
Exercise 4: Mini-Bridge
This is another great exercise that you can make harder simply by exaggerating how much you “flex” your core muscles. The harder you flex, the harder this is going to be. From the leg lifts exercise, scooch your heels closer to your bum to start. Your spine should be relaxed in neutral pose - not pressed against the floor.
The Lift - On an exhale, slowly curl your spine off the floor from the bottom of your tailbone to your should blades. As one vertebrae lifts from the floor you should feel that the next vertebrae is pressed against the floor before it, too, lifts.
Pause at the top of your “bridge” for a full inhale.
The Lower - As you’re exhaling, slowly drop your spine back to the floor, vertebrae by vertebrae. Again, you’ll feel core engagement and pressure as you press your spine down. The slower and more mindfully you do this, the harder it will be.
Take a full inhale at the “bottom” (with your spine in neutral) before you repeat. Repeast this exercise 10-15 times. To add challenge, lift your arms so they’re 90-degrees to the floor.
Exercise 5: Canoe
A classic! This exercise has many variation to make it as easy or challenging as you need. The best way to start this progression is with your heels on the floor. Once you’ve mastered that you can work toward having your shins parallel to the floor, and finally your legs extended straight, at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
Neutral - start with your legs in your chosen level of challenge. Your spine should be straight and collar bones open. Your upper body position is as important, if not more important, than what your legs are dong so make sure you can hold both perfectly. If you’re having troubles, think about your core connection: pull the bellybutton toward the spine and your lower ribs to hips.
Row - twist your upper body to tap the floor beside your hip while maintaining the open chest and keeping your legs completely still. The twist should come from your core, not your shoulders (i.e. pull your right ribs to your left hip).
Complete 15-20 full row cycles (15-20 on each side). Moving slower will add more challenge.