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Engage the entire core, not just the abs

Are you tired of the same old crunches on the floor? Looking for a little more variety to spice up your ab workout?

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Those of you who are not incorporating ab exercises into your exercise routine should be.

Why?

The abdominals are part of the team we call the core, which is composed of the muscles that support your spine, stabilizing your entire body. Other muscles of the core include the sides of the trunk, the pelvic floor muscles, the back, buttocks, hips and pelvis. The strength of these muscles is important.

There are frequent misconceptions about the abs and ab exercises.

Ab exercises won't remove "flab on the abs." You can't lose unwanted abdominal fat simply by attacking it with a vengeance, performing hundreds of ab exercises daily, and you can't "spot reduce," or lose body fat from a particular area. That's not how the body works. You could do 500 situps a day and still not lose the fat that sits atop a muscle.

To fight body fat, you need to target the many muscles that work together. An excellent way to do this is to combine cardio exercise (a "whole body" exercise) with strength training and, of course, a sensible diet. Even then, you cannot predict where fat loss will occur. Genetics will do that for you.

Traditional ab work on the floor is effective, but adding standing exercises that revolve around moving your body, using rotational and bending movements, brings a bonus: You will be engaging all the core muscles, not just your abs. And while your body moves in different planes of motion, which targets more muscle groups, you'll burn more calories.

Benefits

Posture: Often people have strength in their upper and lower bodies but are weak in the core. Weak core muscles encourage slouching.

Balance: Core muscles work together to help you move freely in any direction and stand in one place without falling.

Daily perks: Every movement we make involves the core. Lifting, bending, reaching and twisting can be painful if your core muscles are weak.

Back pain: Weak and unbalanced core muscles place a strain on the spine, causing lower back pain.

Sports: Any power movement required from the upper and lower body originates from the core, which is in the center of the body and acts as a link between the upper and lower body. Strong core muscles make it easier to swing a golf club, and they certainly will add power to your forehand or backhand shot in tennis.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at slafit@tampabay.rr.com.

Your move | demonstrated by Jerry Biehn

Contract the abdominals for each exercise to protect your back.

Balance pushup with stability ball: Targets the core, chest, shoulders and arm muscles.

To get into the starting position, kneel on a mat, facing the ball. Roll forward on the ball until your hands touch the floor, giving you support. Your hands should be about shoulder width apart. Walk your hands forward on the floor until the ball is under your shins and your hands are under your shoulders. Beginners might want to keep the ball under their thighs. For the most challenging position, place the ball under your toes. Keeping your torso straight, bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the floor as far as you can. The wider you have your arms, the more you will be working the chest. The closer the arms are to the body, the more you will be working the triceps. Straighten your arms and push back up, repeating eight to 12 times.

Overhead circles: Strengthens the core and arms.

Standing tall with feet hip width apart, knees slightly bent, hold a medicine ball or weight over your head, elbows slightly bent. Keeping a stable torso, make a large circle to the left. Draw circles to the left eight to 12 times, then repeat circles to the right eight to 12 times.

Reverse lunge with knee lift: Uses core muscles for stability while targeting the lower body.

Step your left foot to the back in a reverse lunge position. Straighten your right leg, quickly bringing your left knee into a knee lift, swinging your arms as if you're running. Repeat eight to 12 times, then change sides and repeat.

Engage the entire core, not just the abs 06/20/16 [Last modified: Monday, June 20, 2016 1:48pm]
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