Siobhan Byrne: Effective core workouts
Abs and core exercises don't take very long to do, but must be done correctly, says our fitness expert
As I have written on so many previous occasions, having good core strength is the foundation upon which every other muscle group lies and it is essential for a well-balanced and strong body. This is where it differs from the abs, and although you may have reasonably strong abs your core may not be as well developed as you think.
Contrary to popular belief, the core is not just your abdominal muscles, it includes the rectus and transverse abdominis, the internal and external obliques, the muscles in your back, pelvic floor and hips. The core even extends into the diaphragm, neck and more.
The abs, on the other hand, are made up of the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and internal and external obliques.
When worked out effectively and, most importantly, when the body fat percentage is low, you will see what's more commonly referred to as a six-pack. This is when people can get really disillusioned with their training, as most people will carry extra body fat around their mid-section. Unfortunately, no matter how much you work your abdominals you will never truly see the results unless body fat is low.
It's unfair to say that people with six-packs don't often work their abs, when in fact they utilise their body as efficiently as possible. They engage the core and abs when working other body parts through exercises including squats, chin-ups, lunges etc. It really doesn't matter how small the muscle is, you can effectively engage and help work your core and abs alongside other muscle groups.
It should also be noted that abs and core exercises don't need to take very long if you are singling them out, but they should be very effective straight away.
If you can do 30 crunches and not feel them, then you are not doing them correctly. Bringing core and abs together will show weaknesses very quickly and the training will feel intense and difficult. For example, you may feel a weakness in the lower back when adding the mountain climber on Swiss ball with a weighted crunch if you are doing them correctly. Make sure to use your mirrors where possible to develop correct form and truly engage the core and abs.
Breaking down your workouts: The abs and core - week 2 of 4
Mountain Climber on Swiss ball
1/ Start with both feet on the floor and two hands placed on in the middle of the Swiss ball. Make sure your back is flat with your core engaged. Slowly bring one knee up to the ball while balancing with the other foot.
2/ Repeat with the opposite foot.
For a less advanced version use a bench instead of a Swiss ball.
Weighted crunches on Swiss ball
1/ Start with your feet shoulder-width apart on the floor while lying on a Swiss ball and holding a weight plate on your chest.
2/ Crunch up holding the plate at the chest and engaging the abs. Return to the start position and repeat. Do not over extend the neck.
Side bridge with leg raise on Bosu ball
1/ Start by leaning on your side on one hand on a BOSU ball, with your feet placed on top of each other.
2/ Slowly raise the resting leg and then return to the start position.
Crunches on BOSU ball
1/ Start by lying on the BOSU ball with your back supported, hands to the side of the head and your feet flat on the floor with knees bent.
2/ Slowly crunch up towards the ceiling and return back to the start position.
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