The essential workout for your best body: you know that strengthening your core will flatten your abs and protect your back. But it will also build stamina while burning calories to get you the fittest ever – At Home Workout
Alexa Joy Sherman
If you’re like most women, one of your top reasons for exercising is to look better — so you do crunches for flatter abs, squats for a firmer butt, cardio for less flab. But if you really want a strong, active, beautiful body, you’ve got to lay the right foundation — and that means training your core muscles. These deep layers of the abs and back extensors are largely responsible for every move your body makes, as well as its stability, balance and posture. “People don’t realize how important the core muscles are — for function and for better exercise performance,” says Reebok Master Trainer Gin Miller. “If you can’t move your body through its full range of motion, your workouts won’t be as effective — and you risk getting injured.”
That’s why Reebok is so excited about one of the latest trends in fitness, Core Training, upon which Miller based this exclusive workout. “Core training is in every contemplative program out there, like yoga,” Miller says. “People are realizing that you don’t need to do a whole lot of movement to get the job done. Holding positions builds strength and flexibility and burns calories. It’s a beautiful way to layer your exercise — starting from the inside out instead of the other way around.”
You don’t need any equipment to do these moves — though if you really want to enhance the results, you can perform them on a balance tool such as the Reebok Core Board (see “Balancing Act: 4 Tools to Up Your Results” on page 175 for details on this and other tools). “Your core muscles will already be working hard to stabilize your body as you do the moves, but performing them or almost any other floor-based exercise on an unstable surface makes those muscles work even harder,” Miller says. So get ready to lay your fitness foundation — you simply can’t function without it.
1. LUNGE WITH TRUNK ROTATION Begin with feet hip-width apart, left foot 1 entire stride ahead of right with right heel lifted, abs tight, arms bent and held in front of you at shoulder height. Bend both knees and lower hips until left knee aligns with left ankle and right knee points down [A]. Use hip and thigh muscles to straighten legs, and bring right knee through and forward up to hip height, simultaneously circling arms to right side and twisting torso to right [B]. Return to starting position and repeat for all reps, then switch sides to complete I set. Strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks, calves, adbominals and back extensors. Balance-board setup Begin with front foot on board.
2. SINGLE-LEG HIP HINGE
Stand on right foot, toes of left foot resting slightly behind right heel, abs tight, arms crossed over chest. Hinge forward from hips, keeping lower back naturally curved [A]. Using hip and thigh muscles, extend left leg behind you until body forms one straight line from heel to head [B]. Hold, slowly lower foot back to starting position and repeat for all reps, then switch sides to complete 1 set. To progress, extend arms straight out until parallel with floor in starting position and maintain throughout set. Strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks, abdominals and back extensors. Balance-board setup Begin with both feet on board.
3. SIDE-LYING T-STAND WITH ROTATION
Sit on right hip, knees bent, right hand on floor aligned with right shoulder, arm straight. Lift hips off floor, straightening left leg, then right leg, sliding it behind left leg so left leg is about 1 foot in front of right in “scissors” fashion, with sides of feet in contact with floor. Raise left arm so it’s in line with left shoulder, forming a “T” [A]. Tighten abs and twist torso to right to face floor, bringing left arm down and under armpit [B]. Slowly open body back up to starting position. Perform on other side for second set. To progress, reduce space between feet or stack them. Strengthens abdominals, back extensors, shoulders, upper back, chest, inner thighs and buttocks. Balance-board setup Begin with bottom hand on board.
4. HELD BRIDGE WITH EXTENDED LEG
Lie on back with knees bent, feet hip-width apart, arms extended by your sides. Use abs and buttocks to push hips up off floor, extending left leg straight up so it’s perpendicular to floor [A]. Keeping entire core tight, slowly lower left leg out to side and away from midline of body, making sure to extend only as far as you can go without losing stability [B]. Return to [A] position, lower foot and hips back to floor and repeat, alternating sides with each rep to complete set. To progress, fold arms across chest. Strengthens buttocks, inner thighs, upper hips, quadriceps, hamstrings, abdominals and back extensors. Balance-board setup Begin with upper back and head on board.
5. SEATED BALANCE
Sit with knees bent and feet on floor, arms extended in front of shoulders. Tighten abs and lean back from hips, keeping chest lifted [A]. Lift left leg off floor to knee height without moving pelvis [B]. Return foot to floor, sit upright and repeat with opposite leg, alternating sides with each rep to complete set. To progress, lift both feet at once (see photo, bottom right of page 173). Strengthens abdominals and back extensors. Balance-board setup Begin seated on board.
How it works Using your body weight only, these moves L strengthen all your major muscle groups and, because they also demand a tremendous amount of balance and coordination, they call on your core muscles to stabilize you throughout. As a result, you get strength, flexibility and a great calorie burn.
Warm-up Begin by marching or jogging in place for 2-3 minutes. Then mimic the movements you’ll be doing in this workout by performing 8-10 moderately paced but controlled reps of each of the following: squats, hip hinges, push-ups against a wall and walking lunges. End your warm-up with some lower-back stretches (place hands on thighs, round the back, then arch the back) and some easy torso rotations.
Workout schedule Perform these moves in the order they appear 3-4 times a week, taking a day off between each strength session.
Sets/reps Perform 2 sets of 8-20 reps of each move. (Only do as many reps as you can without impeding form; better to do 8 clean reps than 20 sloppy ones.)
Beginner option If you’re just starting out, do this workout twice a week and gradually build up to 3-4 times a week. You may also want to start with the minimum number of reps, and just do 1 set instead of 2, adding more reps and a second set as you progress.
Advanced option Aim to do the maximum number of days, sets and reps outlined above, and check the captions for how to progress. Also, think about performing the exercises on a balance tool to really challenge your core muscles and increase the calorie burn (see “Balancing Act” on page 175).
End each workout by stretching all your major muscle groups, holding each stretch for 15-30 seconds without bouncing.
Reebok Master Trainer Gin Miller recommends 20-60 minutes of cardio activity 3-4 days a week on days you’re not doing strength and flexibility training. ‘Activities that work the core the best are ones that have less contact with the floor,” Miller says. She suggests climbing, rowing, cycling and mountain biking (move up and down from the saddle as you ride), dance (such as funk or hip-hop), low-impact medicine-ball workouts, power yoga, boxing and martial arts.
BALANCING ACT: 4 TOOLS TO UP YOUR RESULTS
When you perform exercises on a balance tool, you increase the body benefit. “You have to stabilize against a moving surface, so all the muscles start to fire,” explains Reebok Master Trainer Gin Miller. “Your heart rate goes up, you burn more calories and you use muscles you didn’t even realize you had.” Any unstable surface that challenges your balance will enhance the exercise. Here are a few we recommend.
1. BOSU Balance Trainer This is a half-ball attached to a platform. Do your moves on the ball side or, for more advanced drills, perform them on the platform side ($130, with pump, exercise manual and instructional video; bosu.com).
2. Reebok Core Board An oval board attached to an adjustable base (which allows you to increase or decrease the board’s resistance), this device tilts, twists and recoils with your body’s movements ($190, with instructional video for home use; reebokdirect.com).
3. Balance Disc-Cushion A very basic balance device, this cushion can be inflated more to minimize the challenge or less to up the difficulty factor ($23, air pump and needle not included; power-systems.com).
4. Aeromat Balance Pad Another basic, foam-filled tool that challenges your balance ($40; power-systems.com).
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