Get more out of your core workout

Hi friends! How’s the day going? Hope you’re having a great afternoon. The NBA draft is tomorrow (!) so this basketball nerd has ESPN on non-stop. Arizona has four players in the draft and I can’t wait to see what teams I’ll start caring about haha. 

Today, let’s talk about the core!

Plank  1 of 1

Summer is officially here, which means social media is flooded with reminders to train our core to reduce back pain and improve posture! (Except not at all. It’s telling us to work on our “bikini body” which means… put a bikini on your body. That’s all you need to do.)

In all seriousness, core training is an integral component of any balanced fitness plan. Not only does it help stabilize us in everyday movements, but like I mentioned before, a strong core can improve posture, reduce back pain, and decrease the risk of injuries from lack of stabilization.

Some tips for core training:

-You can train your core ANYWHERE. Sit up tall, lift up your chest and drop your shoulders down and back. Now, think about bracing your core and draw in the spot 2 inches below your belly button towards your spine. Hold for 10 seconds. Rest for 3-5 seconds and repeat. Sneaky core training! You can do this driving, at the office, watching TV, or during overdrawn conversations. 😉

-Make sure to train all components of the core. This is NOT just your crunching six-pack muscles (rectus abdominis). I like to think of the core as our entire trunk: everything but our arms and legs. In your core training, be sure to include some transverse abdominis work (like planking), oblique training (like Russian twists), back work (deadlifts and Supermans), and if you’re an extra credit type person, pelvic floor strengthening (hi, Kegels) and glute exercises (like bridges and squats). 

Bridge and press  1 of 1

-It’s typical to train the core as a moving muscle, but that’s not how we functionally use the core in everyday life. The core’s main job is stabilization. We do a lot of deadlifts during the day (especially if you have a tendency to drop things like yours truly), squats (sitting to standing), stabilizing (all day!) and rotations. Think about how the exercises you choose will mimic and strengthen the movements for everyday activities. 

Implementing core training in your routine:

-You do not need to train your core every day. The muscles in your core are just that: muscles. Like all other muscles, they need time to rest and recover. You are already “accidentally” working your core every day, so for dedicated exercises, I would recommend every other day, max.

-Include a mixture of isolation work, unilateral work (training one side and then the other, either using kettlebells or a dumbbell), standing core work (I have a workout here!) and functional movements like medicine ball slams and woodchops. 

-Change it up! A good rule of thumb is if you did it last time, don’t do it this time. By constantly changing your routine, you will keep your body guessing and fight plateaus. Play with sets, reps, and various types of exercises.

-Plank wisely. The plank can become a total-body exercise because after 10 or so seconds our other muscles kick in to support our bodyweight. If you want this to be pure core-only, rest for 3 seconds after planking for 10 and repeat. 

-Add in a balance component. Challenging balance is a great way to kick in the deep core stabilizing muscles, and also work on proprioception (nerve responses to tell our body where its located in space, which can help prevent falls as we age). An easy way to add a balance component: try variations of the exercises on a stability ball, BOSU,

Gina  Squares 6

or standing on one leg. 

For visible results:

When my core has looked its strongest (you know, when there isn’t a human inside), 4 things were happening all at the same time: 

-Extremely clean eats

-Drinking alcohol once or twice a week (instead of the nightly glass of vino)

-HIIT workouts 2-3x a week

-Consistent strength training.

Home gym  1 of 1

That’s it! Usually how often you train your core will not have a huge visible impact BUT, train your core for health, stabilization, posture, injury prevention and the countless other benefits. (And because it’s fun!)

So tell me friends: how often do you train your core? What’s your all-time fave? Any awesome ways you add extra challenge to your routine? 

Have a lovely night! See ya in the morning with a WIAW post.




Get more out of your arm workout

Get more out of your leg workout

Hard wore workout (video)

Do you know what the core really is and what it does?

Be your own personal trainer

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  1. melissa on June 24, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    you’re not a nerd. we are an nfl & nba draft family; they are “holidays!” i do get the “you’re crazy look” from people when i get excited about them.

  2. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West on June 24, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Core work! Yes, I do at least one devoted core workout a week and try to incorporate all three planes of movement. I just started teaching a freestyle core class as well (the gym doesn’t have the license for Les Mills CXWORX, otherwise I’d teach that), and I like to do standing core work quite a bit in that class to change it up. But I agree that most people think of the “abs” as core, but it is so much more than that. And you’re so right that clean eating will help your abs look better, but overall core training is important whether you want anyone to see it or not – it helps you live life! 🙂

  3. Amber Schumann on June 24, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    GREAT POST!!!!!!

    The first time I ever saw the quickest, most visible results was when I ate according to the Whole30 plan. Eliminating dairy, flour, sugar, and basically anything processed was what worked for me. Along with a few runs a week and a couple days of cross training, it was a great mix.

  4. Sommer King on June 24, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Wow, I love these ideas because I am obsessed with core training. It is so hard to find things that actually work. I am so glad that you didn’t mention any type of sit up. Those really do a number on your spine! I also love that you mentioned not to train your core everyday. It needs a break just like you do. These are such great tips!

  5. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on June 24, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    I really like you didn’t mention a crunch in here. I think people too often thing of core as sit ups & crunches and it’s not. For me, I’ve found it easiest to incorporate my core work into my strength training. That way I work all planes and I honestly think it helps me be more aware of my core and lift better too.

  6. Heather @ Life In Leggings on June 24, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    Great post, Gina! Training your entire core (not just those abs) is SO important! I love adding an extra challenge of balance with BOSU and stability balls 🙂

  7. Yaara Leve on June 24, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    Great post girlie! The core is so damn important! That’s why I love Yoga so much and the implementation of mula bandha and uudiyanda (sp–sorry) bandha. Those two are pretty much all you need for a really strong core. It helps so much in connecting to your breath and movement and in headstands and stuff.

  8. Gigi on June 24, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    This is such a timely post as I am just recovering from a back injury and it really made me aware of how important it is to have a strong core! I particularly like your point about the core being our whole trunk. I can’t do a whole lot yet but I’ll be pinning this post for when I am ready to build up that muscle strength. Thanks !

  9. Amanda @ Slimplify Life on June 24, 2015 at 9:39 pm


    I’m also very much so excited to re-enter the “it is acceptable to wear a tankini stage” 😉

  10. Erin @ Her Heartland Soul on June 24, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Great tips! I’ve definitely been scaling back the booze lately. Sad but necessary.

  11. Sara S on June 25, 2015 at 6:54 am

    great post! I completely agree that clean eating is key to seeing big results in core definition…if only wine wasn’t so yummy! I guess it’s all about moderation and balance 🙂
    I am trying to get out of the more is better mindset. Doing core on non-consecutive seems like the way to go!

  12. Alex @ True Femme on June 25, 2015 at 6:55 am

    I hope the Celtics get one of AZ’s players 🙂 They’re my team!

  13. Elizabeth Beil on June 25, 2015 at 7:06 am

    I agree with your 4 tips for the best core at the end. I actually don’t do core workouts specifically but I notice when I do my squats, lunges, jumping jacks, HIIT workouts this is when my core is the strongest. I am also all about the plank! Planking all the time!

  14. Sagan on June 25, 2015 at 7:26 am

    Awesome tips! The core is my favorite area to work on.

    That first tip is something I used to do ALL the time and I had an amazingly strong core just because I was constantly working those muscles. Somewhere along the way I fell out of the habit… getting back into it starting NOW 🙂

  15. Joni on June 25, 2015 at 8:03 am

    Ack, kegels!!! Sorry just feel like I must share this with you…especially for pregnant women we’ve got to stop prescribing kegels! 🙂 I’ve fallen into way too much research about it but here’s a good intro:

    • Liz on June 25, 2015 at 8:20 am

      Very Interesting post. Thanks for sharing!

  16. whitney on June 25, 2015 at 8:09 am

    These are just the tips I needed! I’m looking to strengthen my core because I’m always hunched over with “mom back” and it’s getting pretty sore every night :/ I completely forgot about deadlifts! they are now on my to-do list. Thanks!

  17. Liz on June 25, 2015 at 8:12 am

    Core is where its at! Even though core exercises are absolutely the hardest for me. If you have a strong core you have strong everything else so it’s worth it to build it up!

  18. Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat on June 25, 2015 at 9:06 am

    I so slack on training my core. My sister is a trainer and she always yells at me for not engaging my abs during normal activity, that it is sneaky core work!

  19. Kariann on June 25, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Great post! I think I work my core at least once per week. One of my favorite core exercises is your plank burner video. I *love* up-up-down-down planks (so tough!) and deadlifts. Using the bosu is my favorite balance component, or just standing on one leg.

    Your tips for visible results is awesome – I know I need to work on my clean eats (I’ll do really great for a bit then doh! Pad kee mao craving, yummy, noodles) and limiting my alcohol intake (I probably have about a glass of wine or a bottle of beer per night or every other). I’m loving your summer shape up challenge and meal plan as a way to add some variety to my routine and guide direction in my cooking!

  20. Tracy on June 25, 2015 at 10:27 am

    I only formally do core training 1-2 x a week. However, I feel like my core is constantly challenged in yoga which I practice almost every day 🙂

  21. Julie on June 25, 2015 at 10:49 am

    I do core exercises on the regular, but I definitely think that if you want to see a visible difference, clean eats are where it’s at! 😉

  22. Kelly on June 25, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Alright when you say extremely clean eats…is this excluding sweets/desserts? I do so good with all those things you mentioned, BUT I love dessert. Nothing crazy, but I eat something sweet at least once/day (a small portion)… I’ve seen that you eat sweets too, but when you say your core looked your best did you cut back on that?

  23. Maria on June 25, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    One of my favorite core moves involves a long arm plank with the bosu (ball end on the ground) for added instability. You can do a variety of core moves like that. (leg lifts/twists etc). I’m 20 weeks pregnant and I’m now starting to have to modify core moves at barre. Makes me kind of sad but I love challenging myself my I’m hoping it will only help after baby #2 arrives. Before I was pregnant, I was at my leanest when I ate a paleo diet, and I was doing more HIIT and running.

  24. Allison on June 25, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Pilates-especially on the reformer-is great for core strength! My abs crave it. Off to workout now!

  25. Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment on June 25, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    I try to fit in some core in each of my workouts and do some dedicated ab work a few times a week. Thanks for the tips!

  26. Rose on June 26, 2015 at 3:34 am

    Hey Gina, i train my core 3ces a week and it is awesome fun! Breaking sweat and the tangy feel around abs makes it all worthwhile. I still struggle to eat clean, hope to hit it in July.

  27. Priya on June 29, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Somehow I missed this! My diet has been not so swell so I’m using this as extra motivation 😉

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