How's your core? You know, your abs and back muscles, all that good stuff that holds you upright day after day. Lately I've been experiencing what I call Core Collapse Disorder. That's when you feel your core muscles loosening on you because you're not working on them anymore. When I'm doing ab work regularly it's like I have a natural corset that keeps everything pulled together. When I'm not, it feels like everything is just sort of hanging loose. And that's bad not just for the upcoming swimsuit season -- for me it also leads to lower back pain.
I decided it was time for a week-long core challenge: A core mini-workout every single day for 7 days! Here's how it went.
DISCLAIMER: These are workouts for a reasonably fit, healthy person. Always talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise.
I asked The Stir contributor Carly Pizzani for core exercise suggestions. She recommended "dead bugs" and Spider-Mans (more on those later), side planks, reverse crunches, Pilates 100s, and -- lunges? "Surprisingly, lunges are awesome for your abs. They're working hard to maintain your posture while you lunge."
So I figured 5 mintues of core work a day should be do-able. No problem! A mere blip in my day ... except it's not. Here's what I did.
Tuesday: One set of 30 Dead Bugs, two sets of Pilates 100s, a plank pose for one minute, and two one-minute side planks. I am super enthused! Core fitness, here we come. The Dead Bugs are fun, but I kind of feel like I'd need to do more than 30 to really feel the impact.
Here's the Dead Bug
And here's how to do a basic plank.
Here's how to do a side plank.
Wednesday: Two sets of Pilates 100s, a basic plank pose for one minute, and two one-minute side planks. Yes, I skipped the Dead Bugs. Flaking already?!? I decided if I was going to keep this up every day I'd need to trim my routine just a little bit.
Thursday: Three sets of 20 squats, a one-minute plank. I liked the squats, and I could see what Carly meant about how they work the core. The next morning, though, I felt it mostly in the glutes.
Here's how to do a squat.
Friday: On Friday evenings my gym has a spin class followed by 15 minutes of core work -- and it's tough. The instructor may or may not be trying to kill us, it's hard to tell. But she does make a point of telling us that core work isn't just about your belly. You need to build up the muscles in your back as well. And she even has us working on our glutes. My two favorites from her routine this week were the reverse crunches (which Carly also recommends), the glute bridge, and side plank leg lifts.
There's a couple different versions of the reverse crunch. Here's how we do them.
And here's how to do the glute bridge. I never would have seen this as a core exercise, but I actually could feel my back muscles working. We held 7 to 10-pound weights while doing these.
And here's how to do a side plank leg lift. That second side is always killer for me.
Saturday: Eh, a plank. I was tired from Friday.
Sunday: Um, yet another low-ambition day in which I did a single plank. Hey, it was Mother's Day! I try not to wallow in self-loathing and FAIL for flaking two days in a row.
Monday: One-minute plank, 25 plank leg lifts on each side, 40 table tops, and three sets of 10 reverse crunches. Yes, I was making up for my slothful weekend.
One exercise I didn't get around to is the Spider-Man exercise Carly mentioned, which she says you can do in place. Maybe I'll try that later today.
And there you go -- a week of core work. The hardest part about this challenge was simply doing it consistently, day after day. A minute's worth of plank is one thing, but even though 5 minutes a day sounds like nothing it was kind of too much for my schedule. Time to face reality: If I want to do daily core work, I need to do just a couple of the hardest exercises instead of a full 5 minutes. Oh hello, painful reverse crunches! I guess I'll be doing you all summer.
At least I feel like I have my abs back again, though. My spin workout felt less shambly (spinning works your core, but having a strong core in the first place gives you a better workout). And I found myself sitting up straight more at work. Totally worth it. This was exactly what I needed to jump-start my spring.
Do you do core work? What are your favorite exercises?
Image via The Pilates 100/YouTube