When talking about core strength, we are referring to the muscle groups that support the spine and lower body, such as the abdominal and back muscles. A strong core allows you to do simple everyday tasks easier like carrying groceries in from the car or a full laundry basket, or toting around a 15-pound toddler.
Two exercise types do more to strengthen your core than most other types of exercises – planks and crunches.
Circle Plank – To do this exercise, start in the typical plank (push-up) position with your abs pulled in tight. Start the exercise by pulling in your right knee and turn it in a circle five times clockwise, then five times counter clockwise, while keeping the rest of your body stationary. Now switch legs and repeat.
Sliding Pike – A type of plank, this exercise takes you from the straight-line plank position to an inverted “V”. Start from the plank position on an uncarpeted floor but with one variation – a folded up towel under your feet. Now tighten your abs while at the same time sliding your feet toward your hands so that your butt raises and you end up in an upside-down “V”. Hold for a count of one and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Side Balance Crunch – The starting position is your left knee and left hand on the floor, with your right arm straight up. Now extend your right leg so your body forms a straight line from your extended arm down to the foot of your extended leg. For the actual exercise, pull your right knee towards your torso while at the same time bringing your right elbow toward that knee. Straighten both the arm and leg. Repeat 10 times on this side and then switch sides.
Ball Crunch – This is the basic crunch, but with a twist, using a physioball – one of the big plastic balls filled with air that you see in gyms. Starting position is sitting on the ball and rolling forward until your torso from your shoulder blades down to your tailbone are in contact with the ball. Your knees are bent, and your feet are planted flat on the floor approximately hip-width apart, and then perform the same basic crunch. By having to balance your body on the ball, you are engaging your abdominal muscles more to keep you from rolling off of the ball. Repeat 10 times.
These variations to the standard plank and crunch will both increase your core strength quickly and challenge you by working your abdominal muscles in a different way.