Maybe you have friends who love exercise classes with tough ab work. They want to leave feeling nauseous and sore. On the other hand, you’d like an easier way to strengthen your core.
You can have a firm and flat midsection without feeling like you caught the flu. A gentler workout can even help protect you from injuries to your pelvis, back, and neck.
Find out how to stay comfortable while you work your core. Understand the principles behind choosing and modifying abdominal exercises and learn how to design a workout that matches your fitness level and goals.
General Principles for Strengthening Your Core Gently:
1. Seek balance. Target your whole core, including your back and hips, as well as your abdominals. That way, you’ll avoid muscle strains caused by putting too much pressure on weaker areas.
2. Honor your limits. Stop if you feel pain, especially in your lower back. The exercise may be beyond your fitness level. It could also be a sign that a specific movement isn’t well suited to your body type.
3. Shorten your sets. Modifying an intense class can be as simple as doing fewer repetitions and resting longer between them. Set your own goals rather than trying to keep up with others.
4. Watch your breath. Skillful breathing can make any exercise easier and more effective. Avoid holding your breath, which raises your blood pressure. Try exhaling during the most intense part of the exercise.
5. Support your weight. Many core exercises use your body weight for resistance. You can lighten the load by sitting in a chair for twists or putting your knees down during planks.
6. Check your form. Ask a trainer or watch a video to be sure you’re doing an exercise correctly. Working out when you’re fatigued can also cause improper alignment and injuries.
7. Play sports. You may already participate in some activities that strengthen your core. That includes rowing and swimming, as well as climbing stairs.
8. See your doctor. Many exercises can be safe for one individual, but risky for another. Talk with your doctor or a physical therapist about your individual concerns.
Sample Exercises for Strengthening Your Core Gently:
1. Do a dead bug. Lie on your back with your arms raised up to the ceiling. Bend your hips and knees to a 90-degree angle. Exhale as you extend your opposite arm and leg out. Repeat on both sides.
2. Lower one leg. If double leg lifts strain your back, start with one side at a time. You can lower your leg down to the floor if that’s comfortable or stop when you feel any pressure on your lower back.
3. Raise your knees. Lift both knees while sitting in a chair or using the hanging leg raise station at your gym. You can also try it with straight legs when your strength increases.
4. Make a bridge. Any backbend including a gentle bridge helps to strengthen your abdominals. Lie on your back with your arms by your side and bend your knees with your feet kept on the floor. Raise your hips by pressing into your feet and upper arms. Work towards staying lifted for up to one minute.
5. Hold a plank. This is a key exercise that works your entire core. It can also be modified in many ways for beginners or advanced athletes. For the easiest versions, do a plank with your forearms resting against a wall or keep your knees on the ground.
A strong and flexible core makes daily activities easier and gives you power and balance. Build up your abdominals, back, and hips with a workout routine that keeps you safe while you increase your fitness.