Want a stronger core? Skip the sit-ups
Sit-ups once ruled as the way to tighter abs and a slimmer waistline, while "planks" were merely flooring. Now planks — exercises in which you assume a position and hold it — are the gold standard for working your core, while classic sit-ups and crunches have fallen out of favor. Why the shift?
One reason is that sit-ups are hard on your back — they push your curved spine against the floor and work your hip flexors, the muscles that run from the thighs to the lumbar vertebrae in the lower back. When the hip flexors are too strong or too tight, they tug on the lower spine, which can create lower back discomfort.
Second, planks recruit a better balance of muscles on the front, sides, and back of the body during exercise than do sit-ups, which target just a few muscles. (Your core goes far beyond your abdominal muscles.)
Finally, activities of daily living, as well as sports and recreational activities, call on your muscles to work together, not in isolation. Sit-ups or crunches strengthen just a few muscle groups. Through dynamic patterns of movement, a good core workout helps strengthen the entire set of core muscles you use every day.
For more on the benefits of strengthening your core, buy Core Exercises, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
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The right stuff: These simple items can help you strengthen your core
You needn't spend a cent on fancy equipment to get a good core workout — many core exercises rely on your body weight alone. But with the help of some simple equipment, you can diversify and ramp up your workouts.
The following items can help you put a new twist on your core exercises. Most of them can already be found around your house or are available at low cost from a sporting goods store.
- Chair. Choose a sturdy chair that won't tip over easily. A plain wooden dining chair without arms or heavy padding works well.
- Mat. Use a nonslip, well-padded mat. Yoga mats are readily available. A thick carpet or towels will do in a pinch.
- Yoga strap. This is a non-elastic cotton or nylon strap of six feet or longer that helps you position your body properly during certain stretches, or while doing the easier variation of a stretch. Choose a strap with a D-ring or buckle fastener on one end. This allows you to put a loop around your foot or leg and then grasp the other end of the strap.
- Medicine balls. Similar in size to a soccer ball or basketball, medicine balls come in different weights. Some have a handle on top. A 4-pound to 6-pound medicine ball is a good start for most people.
- Bosu. A Bosu Balance Trainer is essentially half a stability ball mounted on a heavy rubber platform that holds the ball firmly in place.
For more ways to challenge your core muscles, purchase Core Exercises, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
In Core Exercises, you'll discover:
- Standing core, floor core, and mixed core workouts
- The right (and wrong) way to do 3 classic core moves
- Bosu, medicine ball, and stability ball routines
- Which exercises and stretches are best for your favorite sports
- Tips to help maintain the gains you’ve made
- Special Bonus Section: Setting goals and motivating yourself
Look and feel younger! Learn the moves that pay dividends!
Exercise can be a pain. Literally and figuratively. In Core Exercises, a Harvard Special Health Report, you’ll find there is gain without pain. You’ll learn exercises that are safe, gentle, and rewarding… exercises that keep you motivated for more… exercises that don’t require spending a fortune in time or money… exercises that produce results you will feel and others will notice.
The fact is, after beginning a core exercise program, you will notice the difference. You will have greater strength and flexibility for doing everyday tasks. You will have added power for athletic activities. You'll have less pain and stiffness. And that slimmer waistline and those better-defined ab muscles will be hard to ignore.
Core muscles form the central link between your upper and lower body. A strong core underpins almost everything you do. Building up core muscles is key to improving performance in almost any sport by extending your range of motion to lift, bend, turn, and reach.
Core Exercises was prepared by Harvard Medical School physicians and master trainers. It will show you how you can strengthen your core with workouts that take no more than 20-40 minutes and do not require fancy equipment. They are exercises that will keep you motivated and continue to challenge you as you make progress.
Each of the six full-length workouts combines classic core moves — planks, squats, and lunges — with exercises that work the full range of core muscles. Each exercise is illustrated and accompanied by tips and techniques, instructions for tempo and movement, and options for making the exercise easier or taking it up a notch.
The report also gives you four shorter workouts for busy days or when you need a change. You'll get tips for exercising safely and effectively. Plus, a handy chart tells you which exercises and stretches are best for your favorite sport.
So, see — and feel — the difference! Order your copy of Core Exercises today!