Get to the core of good health

Many people mistakenly believe that core training is another name for abdominals and continue to perform ab crunch after ab crunch in the fervent hope they'll lose flab over their abs.

Exercising the abs remains important for increasing strength and endurance, but you cannot remove that fat through ab exercises.

The abdominal muscle and the fat lying on top of that muscle are two separate entities.

The body fat on top of the muscle can only be lost through full body exercises, as in aerobic exercise and proper diet.

Abs are only one small part of what is called the core.

The core refers to the centre of the body (trunk or torso), known as the power centre, which is where all movement originates.

Benefits of core training includes increasing range of motion by providing lower back stabilisation.

Strong core muscles help free up muscles and ligaments, increasing your flexibility.

Core training also increases power for sports, enabling the torso to generate power to be transferred from the trunk to the shoulders, arms and legs.

Top exercises for your core:

The plank

This basic core stabilisation exercise works abdominals, back, glutes and shoulder stabiliser muscles. Begin in a push-up position. Supported with forearms and toes on the floor, contract abdominals, keeping torso in a straight line from head to toes. Without sagging, hold position, building to 30 seconds or a minute. Beginners, hold 10 seconds. To increase intensity, lift one arm or one foot off the floor and maintain correct posture for 10 seconds with each lift.

Reverse wood chop

This exercise targets core muscles and the lower body. In a squat position, hold a medicine ball or a weight beside your right hip. Keeping arms straight (relaxed elbows), bring the ball up, diagonally across your body, until you are standing and the ball is across opposite shoulder.

Lunge with rotation

This strengthens legs, hips and torso. Keeping back straight, abdominals contracted and hips facing forward, step forward with left foot into a lunge position, holding medicine ball or weight about chest height. Keeping hips forward, rotate ball or weight to the left side, arms fully extended. Return ball to original position. Step out with right foot, rotating ball or weight to the right side. You will be using your hips and legs to stabilise the lunge position. A modification would be to hold the ball closer to the body when rotating. Turning with arms straighter (but the elbows never locked) will increase intensity. Because shoes offer more support than being barefoot, removing shoes will engage muscles that stabilise the ankle and you will add a balance exercise to the movement.

Deep stretch for hips

Lying on your back, with knees slightly bent, place strap under arch of right foot. Holding strap with both hands, bring leg straight up (a hamstring and back stretch) without locking knees. Hold strap in left hand, relaxing right arm to side, shoulder height. Turning head to the right, to keep shoulders on floor, slowly bring right leg over left hip to a comfortable stretch. AAP


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