There are few things in the fitness world more sought after than a tight and toned core. To get this done, you may think you have to devote an entire sweat session to your midsection but we're here to tell you that that isn't actually the case! In fact, you can get a great core workout doing just about any exercise!
Employ these expert-recommended strategies to begin sculpting your stomach no matter the workout you are doing:
1. In cycling class
First things first, no matter the position you are in, keep your back straight. If you round your shoulders and back, you can disengage your core and create imbalances between those muscles and the ones in your legs, according to Kourtney A. Thomas, C.S.C.S. owner of Lagniappe Fitness in St. Louis. Focus on keeping your chest open and shoulders back. She says that this will keep your spine naturally straight and keep your core activated for the duration of your ride.
If you find yourself prone to slumping over, try raising the handlebars. Thomas says this will lessen the load on your core but it will help you keep your spine straight. Eventually, your core will be strong enough that you can lower the handlebars again and maintain your posture.
2. While kickboxing
“I always cue clients and classes to bend their knees, tilt their pelvises (imagine a belt buckle on your waist -- you want it to face slightly upward), and brace their core,” says Thomas. “If I were to punch you in the gut, you'd be prepared.” If you keep this stance while kicking and punching, you engage your inner core and create more power in those kicks and punches, says Todd Whelan, C.S.C.S., fitness manager at Crunch gym in Midtown Manhattan. These moves actually work to keep your core engaged. They are the muscles that prevent you from falling forward when throwing a punch.
3. While strength training
Focus on your breathing. According to Whelan, proper breathing can activate and stabilize your abs. Keep yourself focused on inhaling slowly through your nose during the 'easy' part of any exercise. If you are doing a squat, for example, inhale slowly during your downward motion. Then, exhale forcefully through your mouth when doing the 'work' part of the exercise. So, again, if you are doing a squat, exhale like you are trying to blow up a balloon when you are coming back up to standing.
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4. While doing Pilates
Pilates is all about the core. But, keeping your spine in proper alignment can take things to a new level, says Pilates instructor Jacquelyn Brennan, C.S.C.S. and co-founder of Mindfuel Wellness in Chicago. To achieve this proper alignment, stand tall and distribute your weight evenly throughout your feet. Don't stick your butt out or tuck it in, keep your pelvis in a neutral position. Your ribs should be positioned over your hips and your ears, directly over your shoulders.
5. While running
While running doesn't directly work your core, the strength of core does play a role in your ability to run, says Thomas. "Strong abs can make your stride more efficient and increase your speed and endurance,” she says. To work your core during a run, stand tall, lead with your chest, and keep your shoulders back. Thomas also suggests backwards jogging. Set a treadmill to a three percent incline and hold on to the handrails while you carefully turn yourself away from the dashboard. Hang on if you need to and slowly start a jog. You don't need to go fast, the point of this exercise is to practice core engagement. Once you know what this level of engagement feels like, you can try to practice the same level of activation in your regular runs.
6. While practicing yoga
Poses that require balance, like warrior three, dancer pose, and headstands are some of the best for working your core, says Brennan. To work those same muscles in any pose, practice that yoga breathing you keep hearing about. Inhale through your nose, inflating your belly. Exhale in a 'haaa' through your mouth while forcing your belly up and in. Brennan says that breathing like this will engage both your rectus abdominis and the stabilizer muscles that help keep your torso long and lean.
7. While on the elliptical
You've likely only thought about the elliptical in terms of crushing a cardio workout but it can also be a useful tool when it comes to sculpting your core. Move your arms with every stride but don't touch the handles. By doing this, it will be your core, and not your arms, that will help you keep your balance, explains Thomas. You can also give backwards pedaling a go. It shifts your center of gravity and makes you work your core even more. It may seem like something tiny but you will feel the difference!
How do you engage your core during a workout?
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Source: Women's Health