Tune Up Your Trunk

21 September, 2012

Is your middle just middle-of-the-road? Take a detour with this torso-toning exercise.

First, grab an exercise ball. Using an exercise ball for stomach toning gives you stronger muscles than if you did the exercises on the floor. Plus, you get bonus benefits, like better balance. Now, follow these three easy "Ab Curl" steps:

  1. Sit on the exercise ball, feet flat on the floor, knees hip-width apart and bent at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Place your hands behind your head, elbows pointed out, perform an abdominal curl, and slowly roll back until your mid to lower back rests on the ball.
  3. Pull your ribs toward your pelvis to raise your upper back 3 to 4 inches off the ball. Hold for a second and then return your shoulders to the ball. Repeat 10 times.

Now for the corresponding exercises for strengthening the rest of your core.

Your core -- the 29 muscles surrounding the middle of your body -- is responsible for keeping you stable and strong. Core workouts not only give you firm, flat abs but also help you out-drive your golf group, add aces to your tennis game, kick up your carving quotient when you're skiing or snowboarding, and make you look better in jeans.

In addition to abdominal curls, you can strengthen your back and your sides with these two other core exercises.

For Back Building: Supine Bridge

Keep that exercise ball around for this one.

  1. Sit on the ball with your knees hip-width apart and bent at 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor.
  2. Roll, so that your shoulder blades are resting on the ball and your torso is suspended above -- and parallel to -- the floor. Like a bridge.
  3. Tilt your pelvis, so that your bottom dips toward the floor, then bring it back to original parallel position. Relax and repeat 10 times.
  4. For Sleeker Sides: Side-Lying Leg Lift

Put your exercise ball aside; you won't need it for this one.

  1. Lie on the floor, on your right side, with your right arm extended in front of you for balance and support.
  2. Keep your torso straight, aligning your shoulders and hips so that they form a straight line with your ears. You can bend your right knee slightly for balance.
  3. Keep your left leg straight and slowly lift it upward 8 to 10 inches. Your left heel, knee, hip, shoulder, and ear should remain in a straight line.
  4. Lower your left leg slowly. Repeat 10 times and switch sides.

If you have back problems or other medical conditions, or if you haven't exercised in a long time, talk to your doctor before trying these or any other kinds of exercises.

SOURCES: Effects of physioball and conventional floor exercises on early phase adaptations in back and abdominal core stability and balance in women. Cosio-Lima, L. M., Reynolds, K. L., Winter, C., Paolone, V., Jones, M. T., Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2003 Nov;17(4):721-725. Trunk muscle activity during bridging exercises on and off a Swiss ball. Lehman, G. J., Hoda, W., Oliver, S., Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2005 Jul 30;13:14.

 

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