The core is the base of your body's strength, "it's like the trunk of a tree, that holds all of the limbs," says Mike Stehle, (A.T.C., C.S.C.S., C.K.T.-2) founder of trainingroomonline.com. Crunches and situps can be tedious and even cause lower back injuries, so if you're trying to get a killer six-pack or just looking for solid power in your torso, it's time to add these three essentials to your routine.
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1) The Superman
Lying facedown with your body flat on the ground, extend your arms and legs pointing straight out (like Superman in flight). Keeping your toes and fingers pointed straight, lift your legs, arms, and chest off the ground. Hold the position for as long as possible. Strengthen your core by doing several sets, gradually increasing the amount of time you hold the position. The superman will hit your abs, lower back, glutes and hamstrings, developing overall body strength. Beginners start with 3 sets of maximum holds. Advanced athletes can go with 5-plus sets of maximum holds.
2) The Plank
Start with the simplest variation of the plank. Facing the floor, prop yourself up with your elbows and the tips of your feet. Make sure your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and in line with your shoulders. Keeping your neck, back, hips, and legs straight, hold the position for as long as possible, so that if you lay, say a broomstick, on your back, it would rest securely as if your body were a plank. Five minutes is a tough but ideal goal to work toward. Once you've got the basics down, continue core progression by spicing up your plank routine.
3) Kettlebell Windmill
This is a more advanced core workout that should only be done when you're already confident with your core strength. Go through the motions without weights first, then start with a light weight to be safe.
From the rack position (wrists facing out with the kettlebell resting on the back of your wrist and shoulder), making sure that your legs are straight and spread a little wider than shoulder length, raise the kettlebell straight up with your arm in a locked position. From there, move your butt in the direction of the kettlebell arm, lowering your upper body to the other side while also lowering your weight-free arm down to the ground. Keep your back straight and neutral to build core strength. Beginners start with 3 sets of 5 reps. Advanced athletes can go with 5-plus sets of 5-8 reps.