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Let’s be honest — we all know that a strong core is good for our back health, our posture, and our performance in our activities of choice, but core workouts aren’t really the most fun thing to do.
We’re all busy people, and we all want the most bang for our buck when we set aside the time for exercise. Am I right?
For that reason, I’m going to share two powerful core exercises with you. The first is a simple variation of the crunch that will strengthen your belly and surprise you with its effectiveness. The second will focus on your back, building strength while correcting your posture at the same time.
Strengthen Your Belly: Free Crunches with Obliques
This movement, known as “free crunches with obliques,” is a fun and effective way to work your mid-section while engaging your hip muscles at the same time.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Interlace your fingers and place your hands behind your head.
- Allow your elbows to rest on the floor.
- Find a spot on the ceiling that’s slightly behind your head and focus your eyes on it.
- Lift your legs straight up and cross one ankle over the other.
- Straighten your knees and flex your feet back toward you. Hold this position for the duration of the exercise.
- Use your abdominal muscles to lift your shoulders about two inches straight up off the floor.
- Twist to one side, then bring your head back to the center position. Lower your elbows back to the floor first, then lower your head.
- Switch legs to cross the other ankle on top and repeat the lifting and twisting.
- Do 1 set of 25 reps on each side. Take your time and go slowly making sure to hold good form.
- Make the movement feel slightly mechanical. This will help ensure proper form.
- Exhale as you lift and twist. Inhale when you come back down to the floor.
- Keep your elbows pulled back.
- Try to keep your legs straight the entire time.
- The lower your legs go, the more challenging the exercise will be.
Don’t use your head, hands, or arms to do the crunch. Let your stomach muscles pull your head off the floor. Your hands and arms are simply supporting your head.
Uncoil Your Spine with Cobra
This exercise is very effective at lengthening and stretching the muscles that run along your whole spine. This uncoils the roundedness of your back and shoulders that is common with everyday postural positions.
- Lie down on your stomach with your legs stretched out straight behind you.
- Bend your elbows and bring them directly underneath your shoulders.
- Turn your feet toward each other, bringing your toes to touch in a pigeon-toe position and allowing your ankles to relax out to the sides.
- Place your hands in a thumbs-up position and pull your wrists away from each other until they are wider than your shoulders. You will feel the muscles between your shoulder blades working when you do this.
- Pull your shoulder blades together and slightly down and hold.
- Look straight ahead.
- Breathe deeply and allow your hips to relax more with every exhale.
- Hold this position for 1 minute.
Make sure to keep your hips, butt, legs, and feet relaxed during this exercise. You should feel muscles working in your lower back, upper back and shoulders.
Give this a try and be ready to feel better and say, “Ah, that felt good!”