Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Abs/Core Cheat Sheet: The 6 Moves Everyone Can (and Should) Do

Oops.  Ran out of time yesterday to finish this post. Abs.  Blah blah blah summer body blah blah. Whatever.

Summer bodies come and go, but a good posture is forever.  No, I'm not channeling your ballet instructor from years ago, I'm telling you how to avoid being a little old hunched over man/woman.

I think we all know why abs are important, but I want to reiterate what the article from last Tuesday's links said: Core Strength (not just your abs) is the key to fitness success, pain relief in back/neck/shoulders, etc., and will make you all around stronger and leaner.  Develop your core correctly (make sure you include lower back work, obliques, quads, and glutes) and you'll be one more step away from avoiding your back creeping up on you in your golden years.

Whether your new to core work or an old pro, here are my standbys that I almost always make my classes do:

1. Rope Pull:
  • Lie on your back, feet on the ground.
  • Imagine that someone tied a rope around your chest and tied it to a beam in the ceiling.
  • Grab the imaginary rope and "pull" yourself up the rope, hand over hand.
  • Your shoulders should be coming off the ground.
  • Tip: If your neck gets tired/starts to hurt, put one hands behind your head to support your neck.
  • Tip: Make sure your chin is lifted off your chest (think about having about the space of a tennis ball between your chin and your chest).
  • Beginners: 2 sets of 30 seconds with a 30 second break between sets
  • Intermediate: 4 sets of 30 seconds, 15 second break between sets
  • Advanced: 6 sets of 30 seconds, 10 second break between sets
  • Challenge move (try this after you can go a full minute pulling yourself up without a break): lift feet off the ground so your knees are bent, shins are facing the ceiling (90 degree angle between your body and your thighs, 90 degree angle at your knees).
  • Advanced challenge: legs straight up in the air.

2) Lower back lift:
  • Start lying on your back, put your hands to your sides on the floor to balance yourself, feet flat on the ground. 
  • Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips up to the ceiling. Your body should be in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Tip: If you need more support, hold your lower back up, gently, with your hands.
  • Beginner: Hold for 30 seconds, lower and rest for 30 seconds.
  • Intermediate: Hold for 1 minute
  • Advanced: Hold for 30 seconds with one leg extended, foot off the ground.  Switch legs.  
  • Challenge move: Hold your hands up towards the ceiling, this will require balance and stability, keys to core training.
  • Bonus Move: Do single glute squeezes, touching the ground with your glutes, then squeezing your glutes, lifting your hips up. Try to do 20.

3) Bicycle and Modified Bicycle:
  • Still lying on the ground, hands behind your head, chin lifted off your chest.
  • Twist your core so one elbow moves towards the opposite knee.
  • The opposite leg should extend fully. Switch sides.
  • Beginner: 10 on either side
  • Intermediate: 20 on either side
  • Advanced: 40 on either side
  • Modified Bicycle/Challenge Move: Elbow to knee, opposite leg fully extends. The leg that is fully extended remains straight, lower it down to tap your heel on the ground, then back up. Switch sides.

4) Modified Sit-Up:
  • Instead of having your hands behind your head as you would with a normal sit up, put your arms straight out in front of you.
  • Count to two as you sit-up, then slide back down, to the count of 2.
  • Make sure you keep your chin off of your chest and sit up with your chest leading--it should feel like that same rope from the first exercise is around your chest and pulling you up towards the ceiling, then down.
  • This doesn't have to be a full sit up, just shoulder blades up off the ground.
  • Beginner: 20
  • Intermediate: 30
  • Advanced/Challenge move: Hold a light weight or a ball in your hands.  

5) Invisible Chair:
  • Sit up with your heels on the ground (your knees will be a little more than a 90 degree angle), back straight.
  • Hold your arms out in front of you.
  • You will likely feel this in your quads and your lower back.
  • Beginner: Hold this position for 30 seconds, rest, then another 30 seconds.
  • Intermediate: Lift feet off the ground and hold your knees for balance. Hold for 30 seconds, rest, then another 30 seconds holding.
  • Advanced: Lift feet off the ground and hold your hands out in front of you, not touching your knees.  2 sets of 30 seconds.
6) Plank and Walking Plank:
  • Start on your hands and knees, hands should be directly under your shoulders, knees under your hips.
  • Come onto your toes, into plank position. Your body should be in a straight line from the back for your neck to your heels. 
  • Hold this position without your stomach dropping (making dip in your back) or your butt rising (causing an arch in your back) for 30 seconds.
  • Beginner: If you can't do a full plank, you can start on your knees. Just make sure you keep that straight line from the back of your knees up to the base of your neck.
  • Intermediate/Advanced: Just hold it for longer! Other options include holding your plank while on your elbows/forearms instead of your hands.
  • Challenge Move: Walking Plank: Start in a full plank (on your hands), then shift 1 arm at a time down to a plank on your forearms/elbows.  Go back to your hands.  Continue for 30 seconds.
There ya have it. 6 moves that ANYONE can do.  Your challenge?  Do this routine (any level, mix it up if you need to!) 3 times before next Wednesday.  Questions, comments, concerns?  See me after class :-)


  1. We did the advanced lower back lift and walking plank in Bodyflow last night. It was great to actually feel challenged by the first one (we do the bridge in yoga all the time and it doesn't do anything for me, but they never give us harder variations). I'm still working my abs back up and need to be careful of my rib muscles after the rib fiasco earlier this year, so plank always makes me want to die, and I totally had to do the walking one on my knees.