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Find the strength within: Build up your core muscles

Let's talk a little about the most talked about muscle group in our bodies: the abominable abdominals.

Many times, avid exercisers go into overtime attempting to crunch away that body fat over their abs, not knowing, or simply ignoring, the reality that there is no such thing as spot reducing. You need to become a friend of cardio to burn off those stored calories.

And they tend to neglect the other core muscles. The abdominal muscles should be just part of your game plan, as they are only a small part of the core. Instead of performing hundreds of crunches, you need to focus on the entire core, not just the abs, by exercising a variety of muscles from the hips to the shoulders.

Where are the muscles of the core? To simplify things, the core consists of major muscles that move, give support and stabilize the spine. Take away legs and arms and you pretty much have the core.

What do core muscles do? The core muscles are involved in every movement you do. They work together to protect the spine and the surrounding muscles from injures during movement, stabilizing our bodies so we can maintain our balance. Because a strong core develops good posture, it also helps to alleviate back pain.

Standing core exercises: Try adding standing core exercises to your repertoire. These compound exercises target multiple muscles, and because you are standing in various positions, you will strengthen your balance and coordination. Plus, by targeting several muscle groups at once, you will burn more calories.

Biggest abdominal crunch mistakes

Going too fast: Using too much momentum and doing too many repetitions can cause excessive strain on the spine.

Lifting too high: When performed correctly, ab exercises do not require a lot of motion. Lifting the upper back and shoulders is all that is needed. Lift any higher and your hip flexors and lower back will be taking over. Involving the lower back can place too much strain on it.

Pulling on the neck: Think of the core doing the work with a straight back. Don't pull your neck forward.

Straight leg crunches: Bend your knees to protect your back.

Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Contact Sally Anderson at slafit@tampabay.rr.com.

Your move | Standing core and balance exercises demonstrated by Barbi Bozich

Opposite arm/knee crunch: Standing tall with feet shoulder width apart, place your hands behind the ears with elbows pointed outward. Contract abdominals and lift your left knee across the body, bringing your right shoulder toward the left hip. Hold for several seconds, then slowly return to the original position. Keeping the movement slow and controlled will target the core. Repeat eight to 10 times, then change sides and repeat. If you want a cardio effect, increase the tempo.

Tip: Instead of swinging your arms from the elbows, feel the movement coming from the torso.

Wood chop with knee lift: Hold one weight overhead with both hands. Contracting abdominals, rotate your body slightly to the left, pivoting with your right foot. As you lift your right knee, bring the weight down and across your body toward the outside of your right hip. Return the weight to the overhead position and allow the toes to touch the floor. Repeat the pattern eight to 10 times, then change sides and repeat another eight to 10 times.

Tip: To modify, do not lift your knee very high off the floor.

Leg extension with knee lift: Standing on your right foot with bent arms to your sides, lift your left knee to hip height. Contract your abdominals and, with standing leg slightly bent, stretch your torso forward with arms extended at shoulder level while extending your left leg to the back until it is parallel to the floor. Pause, then return to knee lift position with bent arms by your side. Repeat the pattern eight to 10 times, then change sides and repeat another eight to 10 times.

Tip: To modify this movement, allow your toes to touch the floor when you extend your leg to the back.

Find the strength within: Build up your core muscles 03/21/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 2:45pm]
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