Your core is the complex series of muscles through your back and abdomen and it includes everything except your arms and legs, and it is involved in in almost every movement of your body.
A strong core is vital for lean abs, a healthy back and good posture, so why not add core training to your exercise regime with these five core-strengthening exercises?
Targets: Lower abdominals
Lie on back with your feet off the floor and knees bent at 90 degrees. Place your hands behind ears. Get into starting position by crunching forward until your shoulders are off the floor. Point your toes. Slowly lower your right foot until your toes just tap the floor, keeping your muscles contracted. Hold as you bring your other foot down too. Bring your right foot back up first, then your left. Repeat three sets of eight, 10 or 12 repetitions.
Tip: Ensure your toes are pointed throughout this exercise and that your lower back stays flat and does not arch off the floor.
Targets: Glutes and back
Lie stomach-down on the floor with your arms over your head and palms on the ground. Draw your navel in, tighten your glutes and thighs, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Keep your chin tucked in. Now in one movement, lift your arms, chest and legs off the floor as high as you can. Hold the pose for 10 seconds. Slowly return to ground. Repeat three times.
Tip: Make sure that you aren’t holding your breath – inhale as you lift and exhale as you come down.
Targets: Upper and lower abdominals, back
Sit on the floor with your hands on the floor behind you, fingers pointing to your feet. Tuck your knees into your chest and hover on your tailbone. As you extend your legs out straight, lean slightly back, using your arms for support. Continue tucking in your knees and straightening them, keeping your abs contracted to protect your lower back and your feet hovering above the ground. Repeat three sets of eight, 10 or 12 repetitions.
Tip: Keep your posture straight during the whole exercise and that you’re hovering on your tail bone.
Plank with alternating arm and leg raise
Targets: Upper and lower abdominals, glutes
Start on your hands and knees in the push-up position, tucking your navel in and upwards. Contract your arms and glutes. Lift your right arm and left leg simultaneously, keeping your abs contracted. Keep your shoulders straight and pulled down, away from your ears. Avoid twisting your torso. Hold for 10 seconds then return to starting position. Now, perform the action again with the opposite arm and leg. Repeat three times for each side.
Tip: For a more intense workout and calorie burn, keep all the muscles in your body tensed throughout the exercise.
Targets: All abdominals, obliques
Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed flat on the ground. Extend your legs straight up at 90 degrees, with a slight bend in your knees. Squeeze your abs and push your lower back down. Crunch your head and shoulders off the floor, extending your arms straight to reach for your toes. Hold for one second at the top. Repeat three sets of eight, 10 or 12 repetitions.
Tip: Exhale as you contract upward and inhale as you return to the floor. Avoid letting your ab muscles completely relax, to support your back.
What are your favourite core-strengthening exercises?