Core Training For Beginners – Effective Ab Exercises and Routines
GUEST POST from Paul Vandyken
With the fitness culture becoming more popular and more people becoming aware of the benefits of working out, a large variety of people from different walks of life are now hitting the gym. Many of these people are looking for effective exercises and routines to train their abs in the hopes of developing a strong core or to get a six pack.
Unfortunately, what many don’t realize is that you can potentially injure yourself by performing exercises incorrectly or by choosing the wrong exercises. However, if you know what you’re doing and you do it the right way, you can achieve the result you’re after.
What Is The “Core”?
In short, the core of your body refers to your abs, lower back muscles, and your glutes (butt muscles). These muscles include the spinal erectors, internal obliques, multifidus, lats, glutes, traps, rectus abdominus, and the transverse abdominus. These all work together to give your spine and trunk the support and stabilization it needs.
When somebody works on their core muscles, they can expect to achieve strength and stability around their midsection, which is also quite helpful when it comes to reducing lower back pain and decreasing the risk of injury to the lower back. If all of the core muscles are worked on in balance, and you follow a proper diet and exercise plan, you can also achieve that coveted six-pack look.
Core Training For Beginners
The following exercises are ideal for beginners. The risk for injury is reduced greatly and they are quite simple to do. This is the start of your core training routine.
They do sound strange, but stomach vacuums are a simple but powerful core-conditioning exercise. They help to activate and strengthen the transverse abdominals, which is what is involved when you brace your midsection to move or lift something. Think of it as your “muscle belt”. It has been said that people can potentially reduce their waist measurement by an inch or 2 within a few weeks by using this exercise!
Here’s how you do it: You need to stand upright and place your hands on your hips and get all of the air out of your lungs by exhaling. You then expand your chest and suck in as much of your stomach as possible and hold it. Once you have mastered this, you can do it while standing, kneeling, seated, or lying down. These are simple and, once you get used to the technique, one of the easiest exercises to do while avoiding injury.
Your glutes are the strongest muscles in your body. When they are working right, they can contribute to athletic movements and help prevent knee and back pain; when they aren’t, you’re more prone to sporting injuries and low back pain. The clam shell is an easy exercise that will get those glutes activated again.
You do it like this: Place an exercise band around your thighs to close your legs while in a site lying position with your knees bent. You then raise your one bent leg, as if you were to sit in a butterfly position, but while on your side. The resistance against your hips and legs will tighten those glutes in no time. The best part is that it’s very simple to perform and there’s really no way to injure yourself. You can also do this without the band if your hips aren’t quite strong enough.
The bird dog may have a silly-sounding name, but it is very effective way to work both extension and anti-rotation and puts your glutes, lower back and shoulders to work. This mixes the plank and the superman exercises and helps to balance the left and right sides of your body.
You do it like this: Get on your hands and knees and straighten your back. Extend one arm straight out and then extend the opposite leg straight out. Hold this position for 5 to 15 seconds. This is kind of like a yoga pose, but it’s great for the core.
Advanced Core Training: Hard-Core Workout
Injuring yourself during workouts for the abs and core is a risk, especially if you are a beginner and have no idea what you’re doing. Fortunately, there are some hardcore routines that are very safe to perform if you pay attention to proper technique.
The Cable Crunch
These crunches are ideal for adding resistance to your abs workout. If done the right way, you will achieve faster results. While you’re kneeling, face the high cable pulley and take hold of the rope attachment. You then put your hands against your forehead and slowly move your body in a downwards arc, rounding your back. You will then attempt to make your elbows touch your knees. Take 2 seconds to contract your abs and return to the upright position.
If you add too much weight, this could cause injury. Please make sure you are using a weight that you can handle and progress slowly.
Stability Ball Side Bend
This is the ideal exercise to ensure you get those abs and obliques (side ab muscles) in shape and defined without injuring yourself. What you do is you lay on your side on a Swiss ball and put your feet on the floor. You’ll then bend your knees and spread your legs so that your feet are a little more than a shoulder width apart. Raise your upper and mid back slowly to the side, off of the ball and contract the core oblique muscles along the side of your trunk. Squeeze for one second and then return to the starting position slowly.
If you do this too quickly, you could injure yourself. This is a slow exercise that should be done with care.
Hanging Leg Raises
These are only easy to do if have upper body strength already. These involve a pull-up bar and-and a good grip. You have to grab the bar and make sure your hands are shoulder width apart. Let your body hang freely. Keep your legs straight and your toes pointed. As you lift your legs upwards, exhale slowly avoiding momentum until you form an “L” with your body in the air. Take a pause for a moment and slowly lower yourself back to the start.
Only do this if you have upper body strength and a good grip.
It takes more than just a few exercises to get your body in great shape and keep it that way. It won’t happen overnight. You also need to ensure that you are doing all of these exercises properly to avoid any type of injury. You’ll only have a problem if you abuse the exercise or do something that is way above your skill level. Make sure that you’re eating healthy, routinely exercising, progressing slowly, and following the instructions for exercise. Follow the suggestions above for an injury-free workout that will give you results.
Paul Vandyken is a personal trainer, nutrition coach. His personal website is RigorFitness.com. His blog has articles, videos, and pictures with tips and tricks about fitness, nutrition, and healthy living.
If you are on a journey to a healthy and happy lifestyle, visit his blog to check out his other fitness resources to help you reach your goals.