Stronger Core Without Sit–Ups

A strong midsection delivers many health benefits. But sit-ups and crunches are no longer the go-to exercise for building core strength. Most people think a strong core is having strong, toned abs, but the truth is the abdominal muscles are a very small part of the core.

Defining Core Muscles

The core actually consists of many different muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis. These muscles run the entire length of the torso. When these muscles contract, they stabilize the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle and create a solid base of support, which is the key to improving performance in everyday activities.

Plank Exercise and Core Strength

According to the American Council on Exercise, the plank exercise is one of the top ten exercises for building core strength. Planks recruit a better balance of muscles on the front, sides and back of the body during exercise, compared to sit-ups, which target only the front muscles. The only equipment needed for the plank exercise is your own body and enough floor space to lie down on. To do the plank exercise correctly, complete the following steps:

Plank Steps
  • Lie flat on your stomach. Bend elbows to 90 degrees, and rest your body on your forearms with your palms flat on the floor. Align shoulders directly over your elbows. Legs are straight behind you with your ankles, knees and thighs touching.
  • In a push-up motion, raise your body off the floor, supporting your weight on your forearms and your toes. You should have a straight line from your feet to your head. Tighten your abdominal muscles, and do not let your stomach drop or allow for your hips to rise up. Keep your body in a straight line. Remember to breath.
  • Hold the pose. To start, aim to hold this position for 20 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times. To make it harder, as you advance try to hold the position a little longer each time.
  • Bend your knees. To make it easier, bend your knees so instead of balancing on your toes you are in a modified plank position with your lower body supported by your knees.
Different Workout Options

Other key moves for a good core workout include: lunges, squats and pushups. If you are beginning your first core workout, this is a good start. If you have been doing these moves for quite some time now, remember to challenge yourself and do advanced variations of these exercises. Consult your physician before staring an exercise program.

About the Author
Georgelena Saborio
is an exercise physiologist and supervisor for the Employee Fitness Department at Baptist Health South Florida, a position she has held for 10 years. Ms. Saborio received her bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine. At Baptist Health, she provides and oversees all fitness events and the Employee Fitness centers. She has served as a member of the Chamber South Wellness Committee for four years, assisting and providing fitness programs and education to its members and the community.

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