I love the summer. Summer holidays, eating ice cream, sunbathing, eating ice cream… And this summer we really were spoilt. It was glorious. Unfortunately, like for so many of us, it impacted my waistline in a less than glorious way!
So I got together with fellow home specialist Personal Trainer, *Becki (Happy Healthy Fitness) to pick five of our favourite core exercises to help re-tone my abs and get me back in athletic shape. Once we selected them we realised we could make all of them even ‘better’ with one simple addition… A ball.
But before we reveal our favourites, we must first answer one burning question;
Why do we need a strong core?
Stabilization. The primary function of your core is stability. Every time we move, our muscles contract to keep us balanced. A stronger core generally translates to having better balance and movement potential.
Having a strong core isn’t the same as having a 6 pack. Yes, if you have a 6 pack you will likely have a strong core, but more importantly you have a low enough body fat percentage to display said muscles. You don’t have to have a ‘6 pack’ to have a strong core. Focusing on crunches or sit ups won’t do much for reducing waistline fat, but core exercises will certainly help increase strength and endurance, in order, to perform other fat burning exercises more effectively to reduce body fat percentage. If you want to improve your 10k time, strengthening your core has proven positive effects. So, for me (and you), having a strong core is of paramount importance to get trim in time for all the Xmas trimmings.
To improve core strength and function we must challenge it across different planes of movement; twisting, forward and back, side to side. How do we do this? Grab a friend and a ball and try these 5 exercises.
Why use a ball?
Twisting helps recruit more than just the rectus abdominus. Internal and external obliques are largely ignored when doing standard crunches. Incorporating twisting into your ab workout helps bring the obliques into play.
Performing a static exercise, like the plank, is a fantastic exercise for stabilization. It forces multiple muscles (including the deep lying transverse abdominus, multifidus and pelvic floor) to contract at the same time and stay contracted. This increases muscle time under tension, helping increase muscle strength and endurance. Bringing a ball into the action adds an extra challenge for your muscles to maintain their contraction whilst supporting muscles flex and relax.
Doing sit ups is boring! Playing catch is more fun. It can also add another competitive element; see how many catches you can do in a minute / test which fails first, your core or your catch.
Hand eye coordination
I’m a huge advocate for functional training. Real world training. Training to be healthy and fit, rather than just to ‘look’ good.
Being athletic > being aesthetic.
Being able to throw, catch and react to movements are some of the basic building blocks for a number of sports. Having good hand eye coordination is essential for almost every sporting activity.
Can do it anywhere
If you’ve got children, chances are you’ve got a ball. If you don’t, it’s not hard to get yourself a ball. You don’t need to wrestle traffic and get to the gym. You don’t even need a garden (maybe don’t play catch near to that priceless antique that’s always placed dangerously close to the edge of a shelf though). Any space over 2x3m will do the trick.
*Becki is available for at home personal training in Solihull and surrounding areas. Click here to check out her PT profile.