If you’re like many women, you really WANT to work out, but with so many other responsibilities, it can take a back-burner. I get it - life gets in the way - but the good news is that you can squeeze in easy exercises that target the most commonly complained about trouble zone — the core.
It makes sense to focus on the core when you are short on time because when the core muscles of your body are strong, everything else functions better. Think of your core as not just the stomach but your entire pillar, meaning everything except your legs, arms and head.
So what are some effective and EASY core moves you can squeeze in to your daily routine?
Rib-cage breathing — This is a double positive because breathing deeply forces the deep core muscles of the body to contract and it helps to release stress and anxiety. Who doesn’t need that? “Closing” the rib cage (or as I like to say in my Pilates classes, “knitting” your ribs together) contracts the rectus abdominus — those shiny surface muscles that give you the look of a 6-pack.
Planks — If I were to recommend ONE exercise for people to do — it’s the plank! Holding this pose strengthens the abs, back, arms, shoulders, glutes and hamstrings. Huge win! Come down on the floor with your hands directly under your shoulders (alignment is very important to keep your joints safe!) and hold this position for as long as you can. Start with 10 seconds, take breaks and try to work your way up to 1 minute. Be mindful not to sag into your lower back and a variation that you can start with is keeping your knees on the floor. It’s common for the lower back to compensate for the abs when they’re weak. Be patient and consistent and you will see a huge improvement in no time!
Squats — To really strengthen your core, strengthen the muscles that tie into your pillar like your glutes. Underactive glutes are also a major contributor to lower back pain so fire those butt muscles! Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and extend your arms straight out in line with your chest to challenge your core more. You could also hold something out in front of you for an added core challenge. Keep your weight in your heels to protect your knees and activate your glutes and hamstrings.
My last tip — Tweak your diet! It doesn’t matter how much you exercise - if your diet isn’t on point, belly bloat will hide your fabulous abs. Eat a diet with plenty of lean protein, healthy fats and vegetables.
Dana Brown is director of operations at Privé-Swiss Fitness, an award-winning, upscale, boutique fitness studio, located at 1587 Boston Post Road, Westbrook and 757 Boston Post Road, Madison; phone: 860-391-8735; website: www.priveswissfitness.com.