Hi friends! How are you? Hope your week is going well so far. Don’t forget to enter the Naturally More giveaway here! I’ll announce the winners on Friday. For today, the girls and I are enjoying a low-key morning, and Liv has orientation at her new school. It’s girls’ night tonight (yes!) and I’m going to make some chicken tikka in the Instant Pot.
For today, I have a functional core workout for ya! The key word here is “functional” so this means that it’s based on movements that you would use and perform in real life. Don’t get me wrong, I think funky ab moves can be fun, but they’re no point during the day that you’re doing a thousand tiny crunch movements while making a figure 8 with your legs. (<— I made that move up, but you know what I mean)
Feel free to add this in when you want a quick burn, or if you’re working to improve your core strength and posture.
Here’s what the workout looks like:
Form cues and tips:
Deadlift: Hold a barbell, pair of dumbbells, or kettlebell, and tap one leg behind you. You can keep it here, with the weight in your front foot as you tilt forward, bringing the weights just below the knees. Exhale and rise with a flat back. For more advanced variations, you can float this top foot off the floor. Make sure to keep hips parallel to the floor.
Squat: Make sure your feet are underneath your shoulders (hip width or slightly wider is good) and toes slightly turned out. Hold a pair of heavy dumbbells and focus on sitting back, while keeping your chest lifted and a tight core. Inhale to lower, exhale to rise. Make sure that your knees go towards your toes, but not far past your toes. Sink your hips as low as your flexibility allows, whether it’s a small squat, or to hips just above knee level. You can squat lower than knee level if it works for you, but generally it’s not something that I recommend.
Dumbbell swing: Ground into your feet and stand hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in between your knees and start to gently swing it so you can gain some momentum. When you’re ready, power through your hips, glutes and core to swing the weight up to shoulder height, then bend your knees, swinging it back to start. Remember that you are NOT using your arms to lift the weight; this is pure glute and core power. Every time the weight goes up, make sure you’re strongly exhaling.
Plank: Make sure that your body is in one straight line from your head, all the way back through your knees or toes (depending on whether you’re modifying). If you’re on your toes, press back through your heels, and no matter what, keep your hips in line with your spine. Tilt your chin away from your chest so your neck stays long, and take some nice deep breaths.
Push-up: On your knees, toes, or modified against a wall. Keep your hips down in line with your spine, and exhale, squeezing your chest, to rise.
Squat and twist: Hold a dumbbell on each side, and sink down into a low squat position. Hold your squat as you reach the dumbbell down to one side (like you’re squatting down to put a heavy bag into the car) and then reach the weight up overhead as you exhale (like when you forget your coffee cup on top of said car).
Some tips for core training in general:
-Your core isn’t just abdominal muscles. I like to think of CORE as if your arms and legs are cut off. Everything else is your core, including your glutes, low back, and pelvic floor muscles.
-Don’t go heavy with the weights, since heavy weights encourage muscle growth. For your core, it’s ideal focus on strength (especially endurance, so your core can support you through your daily activities), function, and range of motion. If you’re doing anything with weights, do it with lighter weights to avoid overcompensating (usually with your back or neck).
-Skip sit-ups… and crunches. Here are some of the many reasons why they’re not so bueno, especially in large amounts. During everyday activities, we don’t use our ab muscles in an isolated manner; it’s multiple muscle groups doing their thing in harmony.
-If you’re a postpartum mama, be smart about the types of core training you do, especially in the early postpartum period. Some dos and don’ts are in this post, and a post about Diastisis Recti is here.
-Your core muscles are just like your other muscle groups, which means that they become stronger during rest, not work. You don’t want to purposefully work them out every.single.day especially since they’re recruited for so many traditional strength training exercises. How often do you *need* to perform isolated abdominal exercises? Maybe 1-2 times a week. You can do more if you really like it, or you can skip it entirely and focus on breathing strategy and smart functional training like the exercises above. (In other words, you could never do a crunch again and be totally fine.)
Please let me know if you give it this one a try.
How often do you work out your core? Fave move?
Hope you have a great day!
Photos: Lindsay Colson