Siobhan Byrne: At the core of fitness
Go back to basics to build up strength in your abdominal muscles, says our fitness expert
The abs and core play a vital role in keeping your body fit and strong, so weaknesses, especially in the core, can lead to many problems including bad posture and back issues.
It can be easy to neglect the core, but when you strength-train correctly, you engage the core thus helping to strengthen and tighten up those muscles.
A lot of strength-training exercises I do myself after having children and use with my clients, both male and female, involve a combination of compound and functionality that helps target the core as well as other muscle groups.
In the coming weeks we will be incorporating exercises like these, but for the time being let us start with some of the basics to help build up strength in the core and abs.
There can be many reasons why you would want to target your core or abs. Being clear about your reason and what can be achieved is important.
Holding extra body fat around your middle section does not necessarily mean that your abs or core may not be developed, especially if you already train, as this may just be a body-fat issue. But if your posture is poor or you experience lower back pain as a result of a lack of core development, then you will achieve so much from adding a combination of core and abs exercises into your workout plan.
Where you will always see the best results is with correct training and form, alongside a long-term healthy balanced diet to help reduce body fat, if needed, so you can physically see the results as well as feel them.
Also remember that spot reducing is not possible. You may wish to target an area but it should be combined with working out all muscle groups. Unfortunately there is no quick solution to getting fitter and stronger or losing body fat, and you should look at consistency and a programme that you can stick to to help achieve the results you're looking for.
Below are some of my favourite go-to abs and core exercises.
Breaking down your workouts: the abs and core - week 1 of 4
1/ Start by standing upright, with your feet shoulder-width apart while holding a kettlebell in both hands in front of you with your arms straight. Then raise the kettlebell up and over one shoulder.
2/ Make sure to twist through your mid-section as you rotate the kettlebell around in a circle over your head.
3/ Bring the kettlebell back to the start position over your other shoulder.
1/ Start in a sit-up position with your feet up off the floor, knees bent, while holding a dumbbell at chest level in both hands with your arms extended out in front. Then twist your torso to one side while lowering the dumbbell towards the floor.
2/ Then return to start position and repeat on the opposite side. Keep the feet raised throughout the exercise.
* This exercise can also be done with a medicine ball or a dumbbell.
Side to side squat
1/ Start by lying on your back on a Swiss ball, with feet flat and hands to the sides of your head. Raise your body up off the ball, bringing one knee towards the opposite elbow and twisting the torso at the same time.
2/ Lower your body back to the start position before repeating on the opposite side. Alternate opposite knee and elbow throughout the exercise.
Windscreen wipers with a Swiss ball
1/ Start by lying on your back, holding a Swiss ball between your feet, with your legs straight in the air and your arms out to the sides balancing the body.
2/ Allow your torso to twist while your legs rotate to one side towards the ground while holding the ball.
3/ Then roll your legs to the opposite side. Do not allow the body to twist throughout the exercise.
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