No Gym Needed
Strengthening the core is a very popular thing to do, particularly during this time of the year. Everyone wants to have a solid six-pack when they hit the pools and beaches, or at least be a little firmer around the waist. While many aim to strengthen their cores for vanity (nothing wrong with that. . .guilty!), others target it for health and safety reasons. That’s right, it’s actually healthy to have a strong core. A powerful midsection leads to increased performance and strength in other areas of your body. It also protects the spine from injury assuming good form in everything you do is always practiced. For these reasons, this is why strengthing your core is so important and why I often stress it in many of my blog posts, such as this one I wrote a few months back. Of course, the list of home workouts below aren’t the only methods to get the best results, but here are a few that will definitely get the core cracking.
This workout focuses on stabilizing your core for a long period of time. Planks are one of my favorite workouts for strengthening my core because it’s a clear mental challenge. It’s difficult to stay in a plank position for long periods of time not only because you’re feeling the burn in your core, but also because you’re basically stuck with focusing on the task at hand. This makes the countdown extremely grueling. A clear advantage of planks for strengthening your core is that you can literally do them anywhere. When I worked my office job I used to use my 15-minute breaks to go outside near my car and plank for about 45 seconds to a minute. Literally anywhere at anytime!
2) Flutter Kicks
Flutter kicks are an excellent way to strengthen your core, particularly your lower abs and pelvic muscles. What many don’t realize is that our muscles are an intricate network. Not only do we hit our lower obliques when properly executing flutter kicks, but we also strengthen the muscles in our hips and upper thighs. Tightening these areas will give you that ‘V’ in the lower abdomen area, knocking out two birds with one stone (stronger core, partial beach bod)!
To properly execute this exercise, lay down flat on your back. Place your hands underneath your glutes to cushion your back bone from rolling around the ground. I’ve noticed that this is actually optional, as some find having their hands by their side rather than underneath them more comfortable. Make sure your head is slightly elevated, using your neck and not your trunk to lift your head. Next, lift your feet about six inches above the ground. Once in this position, begin alternating your legs up and down, limiting your motion to six inches with each up and down motion. Your count cadence should go something like, “1-2-3, ONE, 1-2-3, TWO,” as you do sets of about 10-12 reps. The video in this link demonstrates the proper technique for flutter kicks. What I like to do to add intensity to my core workout is hold my feet at the six-inch position after I’ve completed my reps, then spread and close them in a scissor motion. Of course, my abs are absolutely pulverized at this point in the workout, so I usually only make it to about five reps of those.
3) Perfect Push-ups
As lame as this one may sound, never underestimate the power of well-executed push-ups. When done the way they’re supposed to be done, this simple workout can tighten the abs in the way that planks do. Too many times you’ll see people incorrectly doing push-ups, focusing on quantity rather than quality. I experienced this firsthand in the military, as our goal in PT tests was to do as many push-ups as we could do in a minute and a half without doing the worm. If the focus is placed on your push-up count rather than form, you begin to compromise your straight plank form, leading to fewer core muscles used.
I’m not going to get into how to properly do a proper push-up as that would seem like quite an insult to anyone much less someone who already knows their way around a gym, but for demonstration purposes, here is a video of how a proper core-strengthening push-up is executed.
Don’t Stress, Strengthening Your Core At Home Is As Easy As A Few Push-Ups
It doesn’t always have to be all sit-ups and crunches to have a strong core. Now if you’re looking more for the Gerard Butler 300-style abs, sure some crunches may help along with a stringent diet and torturous hours on the treadmill. But if you’re just wanting a solid, powerful midsection mostly geared toward the purpose of health, safety, and gains in other areas of your body, the workouts mentioned above are excellent choices to start with at home.
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