A good starting point to improving the strength of your core is to have the correct nutritional intake
By Mike Whiteley
For some, achieving a tight core seems to come naturally, while others have to really work hard for it and still get little or no noticeable results. However, most of us are somewhere in between. So let’s focus on what you can do to build a strong and lean core that will not only be pleasing to the eyes, but also will also be beneficial for your personal health.
Just to be clear, having aesthetically pleasing abs does not indicate the strength of your core. You can have belly fat and have the world’s strongest core. Although the problem with excess weight around the waist is that it can lead to long term health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, so it is still important to pay close attention to.
A good starting point to improving the strength of your core is to have the correct nutritional intake. When your goal is to build up your health and strength, the only way to do that is to follow a good diet with lots of whole foods, which your body needs for quality building material.
Doing some moderate intensity exercise 2-5 days a week for 30-60 minutes long is also important. Contrary to what you may have been told, your diet does not have to be extreme and neither does your exercise regime to obtain your ideal healthy waistline.
Here are a few tried-and-true dietary tips and exercises that have proven effective for myself and my clients over the years.
TOP 5 NUTRITION TIPS:
- Eat high mineral density greens supplements such as spirulina, moringa and sprouted wheat grass. These natural food products help balance and energize your system, allowing your metabolism and body to function at its optimal level.
- Consume quality omega-3 and omega-6 oil products made from hemp, macadamia, flax, coconut and extra virgin olive oil. They are great for promoting circulation, reducing inflammation and assisting your body to metabolize unwanted fat around your abdomen.
- Eat small balanced meals according to your size and activity level. Every time you eat a meal your body’s metabolism increases momentarily. The trick is to eat small meals that do not have more caloric energy than your body needs at that moment. This will allow your body to receive the remaining calories from your stored body fat. Consult your trainer and/or health care practitioner to determine the appropriate calories you should consume based on your body type and activity levels.
There is an online tool on my ProTrainerLive website that you can use to help calculate this at: protrainerlive.com/f9-questionnaire
- Avoid genetically modified foods, specifically products that contain soy, wheat and corn. They are found in virtually every product that is processed and will impede your body from communicating effectively, preventing your organs from functioning optimally.
- Avoid anything artificial, such as sweeteners and additives, as these affect your body adversely in many different ways. The problems these products can cause are too numerous to go over in this article, but I encourage you to do your research on them.
Now, here’s the fun part: exercises that will take you to your new ‘right and tight’ core. Remember that doing regular activity and keeping your calories at the ideal amount is helpful for your health, but for a strong defined core you need to work those core muscles specifically as well.
Train hard, train with intensity, be consistent and do not try to do all of the exercises at once if you are a beginner. Remember, you have to work with your body based on current and past injuries, as well as personal limitations. If you are beginning a new exercise regime, it is best to have your current fitness level assessed by consulting a qualified fitness professional (or your doctor) who can assist you understand what is appropriate for you.
Follow these tips and exercises and you are on your way to being the fitter, healthier you—starting with the great foundation of a solid core.
Follow each of the following exercises in succession, to complete a workout circuit that will strengthen your core. Repeat this circuit 2-3 times weekly, always allowing a day of rest in between abdominal workouts.
Single Leg Sit-Ups.
Start on your back with arms crossed over your chest and one leg straight on the ground while the other is bent at the knee at 90 degrees off the floor.
Push your lower back down and contract your abs, then lift your head, shoulders and chest towards the bent knee until your rectus abdominus tightens/squeezes, then relax your muscles and return into starting position. Repeat steps for other leg. Do this for 10-20 repetitions for 2-3 sets (one complete cycle of both legs equals one set).
To start, lie on your back, legs straight on the floor and hands placed just under your hips/upper buttocks area.
Point your toes towards you, lock your knees and quadriceps in a straight position and at the same time lift both legs off the floor until you form a 90 degree angle with your torso and legs. Slowly lower legs back into starting position (keeping your lower back on the floor) without letting your feet touch the floor. Repeat leg raises and lowers 20-30 times. Repeat for 2-3 sets.
Side Plank Dips
Lie on your side and use your forearm, bent at 90 degrees, to prop you up so your torso is off the ground. Keep legs straightened and your other arm holding your hip.
Next lift your hips off the floor, squeezing your oblique muscles closest to the floor, moving upwards in a controlled motion. Hold this position with hips off the floor it for 1-2 seconds, then return to original position. Repeat 10-20 times, then repeat entire exercise on your other side. Do 2-3 sets.
Alternating Back Extension
Lying on your stomach, hold your arms straight out ahead of you on the floor, your legs straight and tight together on the floor behind you.
Next, while slightly looking up, lift one arm off the floor while also lifting the leg on the opposite side of your lifted arm. Hold for 1 -2 seconds, as you contract your back and glute muscles. Repeat for other arm and leg. Continue, alternating arms and legs until you have completed 20-30 reps in total (one rep means you have lifted both the right and the left arms).
Sitting on your buttocks, bend your knees and bring your legs towards you while leaning your torso slight back, making a ‘V’ shape with your body. Hold a light (2-5 lb) medicine ball or other type of weight (can be done without weights as well) at the side of your hips while looking up.
Bring the medicine ball from your right side to the left side while holding this position. Repeat, alternating sides, until you have completed 10-20 reps—one rep is complete when you have moved the weight to each of your hips. Do 2-3 sets.