Take the Standing Core and Cardio Challenge

Build strength and endurance with this three-week regimen.
Published August 27

Would you like to have a stronger core without any crunches on the floor? You might want to try to have a little fun with a three-week, three-days-a-week Standing Core and Cardio Challenge right in your own home. Standing exercises are great for strengthening all of the core muscles, simply because you have to engage your abs in order to stand and maintain your balance. Of course, this is not to suggest you ignore “core on the floor.” There are many ground-based core exercises that also help with stability, including planks, the classic bridge and the bird dog.

One very common misunderstanding is that the core is limited to the abdominals, when in reality the core also includes the front, sides and back of the torso. Core muscles get support and assistance from the hip muscles, which include hip flexors, inner and outer thighs and even the hamstrings and glutes. Overtraining your ab muscles while ignoring the other core muscles can set you up for injuries and limit your athletic activity.

Need a little help getting motivated for the Standing Core and Cardio Challenge? Here are four reasons to strengthen and maintain a strong core.

Everyday activities: Any movement that involves lifting, bending and twisting to look behind you relies on strength from the core muscles.

Balance and stability: Your core stabilizes your body, allowing you to move in any direction and stand still without losing your balance. Core exercises will help prevent a fall.

Good posture: Weak core muscles encourage slouching. When your posture suffers, you are vulnerable to lower back pain and muscle injuries.

Sports: Whether you are running, playing tennis or performing another physical activity, a weak core can lead to fatigue and muscle injuries and reduce your endurance.

UP FOR THE CHALLENGE?

Follow the “Your move” core exercises three days a week for three weeks.

Here are a few tips:

• Perform each movement with control, using the correct form.

• Break up the exercises throughout the day if you wish.

• Begin with a five-minute cardio warmup and conclude your workout with stretching.

• Add aerobic movements throughout the workout. (Pretend you are jumping rope, march in place pumping your arms, do leg swings, hamstring curls, dance movements, etc.)

• Beginners should perform one set of eight repetitions using a light weight and only increase weight and repetitions when ready.

• Begin with five-minute cardio movements and gradually increase to 10 minutes.

The schedule

Week 1

Perform eight to 10 repetitions of each exercise for one or two sets.

Do five to 10 minutes of cardio exercise after the final core exercise.

Week 2

Perform 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise for one or two sets.

Do five to 10 minutes of cardio exercise after the final core exercise.

Week 3

Perform 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise for two or three sets.

Do five to 10 minutes of cardio exercise after the final core exercise.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can’t respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at slafit@tampabay.rr.com.

Your move | demonstrated by Sara Simms-Finan

Core stabilizer: Targets muscles that stabilize the spine and strengthens arms, shoulders and back.

Standing tall with your feet hip width apart, hold one weight with both hands stretched out in front of your chest, palms facing inward.

Contracting your abdominals and keeping your arms straight, slowly rotate your torso to the right as far as you can, pivoting on your left foot.

Pause, then slowly rotate to the opposite side, repeating on each side.

Tip: When rotating, your arms will be at about shoulder level. They should be straight, but don’t lock your elbows.

High to low wood chop: Targets the shoulders, abs, glutes, lower and upper back, inner and outer thighs, quads and hamstrings.

Holding a weight or medicine ball with both hands, stand tall with your feet about shoulder width apart.

Slightly rotate your torso with straight arms diagonally over your left shoulder, pivoting on your right foot without locking your elbows.

Contracting your abdominals, bend your knees and exhale as you chop the weight or ball diagonally down toward the outside of your right knee.

Pivoting on your right foot, bring the weight back over your left shoulder.

Repeat on each side.

Tip: Focus on your torso rotations and move without swinging. The movement should be controlled.

Oblique crossover with knee lift: Targets the sides and back of your core.

Standing straight, place your hands behind your head with only your fingers touching.

Lift your left knee, bringing it diagonally toward your right elbow as you rotate your torso to the left.

Lift your left knee as high as you can, keeping your back straight.

Return to center and repeat on each side.

Tip: Maintain good posture and don’t let your torso fall forward.

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