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Elevate Your Core Strength: A Comprehensive Functional Core Workout Guide

Greetings everyone! I trust you’re having a splendid week so far. Before we dive into today’s content, a quick reminder to participate in the Naturally More giveaway; winners will be announced on Friday. Today, the girls and I are relishing a laid-back morning, with Liv gearing up for her orientation at the new school. Excitingly, it’s girls’ night tonight, and I’m planning to whip up some mouthwatering chicken tikka using the Instant Pot.

Now, let’s get down to business with a highly effective functional core workout! The emphasis here is on “functional,” meaning the exercises are rooted in movements you encounter in your day-to-day life. While fancy ab moves can be entertaining, let’s face it—how often do you find yourself performing a thousand tiny crunch movements while gracefully making a figure 8 with your legs? (I might have just invented that move, but you catch my drift.)

Feel free to incorporate this workout when you crave a quick burn or if you’re on a mission to enhance your core strength and posture.

Form Cues and Tips:

  1. Deadlift:
    • Hold a barbell, pair of dumbbells, or a kettlebell and tap one leg behind you.
    • Keep 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 advanced variations, float the top foot off the floor, ensuring hips remain parallel to the floor.
  2. Squat:
    • Position your feet underneath your shoulders with toes slightly turned out.
    • Hold heavy dumbbells, focusing on sitting back while maintaining a tight core.
    • Inhale to lower, exhale to rise. Ensure your knees go towards your toes without extending far past them. Sink your hips as low as your flexibility allows.
  3. Dumbbell Swing:
    • Stand hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell between your knees.
    • Gently swing the dumbbell to gain momentum.
    • Power through your hips, glutes, and core to swing the weight to shoulder height, exhaling strongly each time.
  4. Plank:
    • Maintain a straight line from your head to knees or toes.
    • If on toes, press back through heels, keeping hips in line with your spine.
    • Tilt your chin away from your chest for a long neck and take deep breaths.
  5. Push-Up:
    • On knees, toes, or modified against a wall.
    • Keep hips down in line with the spine and exhale, squeezing your chest to rise.
  6. Squat and Twist:
    • Hold a dumbbell on each side and sink into a low squat.
    • Reach the dumbbell down to one side, then exhale as you lift the weight overhead.

General Core Training Tips:

  • Comprehensive Core Definition:
  • Your core isn’t just abdominal muscles. Think of your core as everything remaining if your arms and legs are removed—encompassing glutes, low back, and pelvic floor muscles.
  • Optimal Weight Selection:
  •  Avoid heavy weights for core exercises, focusing instead on strength, function, and range of motion. Lighter weights prevent overcompensation, typically involving the back or neck.
  • Say No to Sit-Ups and Crunches:
  • These traditional exercises have limitations, especially when considering the natural movement patterns of our bodies during everyday activities.
  • Postpartum Considerations: Postpartum mothers should be prudent in choosing core exercises, especially in the early postpartum period. Refer to specific dos and don’ts in this post, with additional information on Diastasis Recti available here.
  • Rest and Recovery:
  • Core muscles, like other muscle groups, strengthen during rest. Avoid purposeful daily workouts, as they are frequently recruited in various strength training exercises. Isolated abdominal exercises are necessary 1-2 times a week, with more or less based on personal preference.

In essence, you can bid farewell to the traditional crunch; there are ample alternatives focusing on breathing strategy and intelligent functional training, exemplified by the exercises mentioned above.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

  1. How often should I perform isolated abdominal exercises?
    • Ideally, 1-2 times a week is sufficient. However, preferences may vary, and it’s perfectly acceptable to skip them entirely and concentrate on breathing strategies and functional training.
  2. Are sit-ups and crunches completely ineffective?
    • While they have some benefits, these exercises are limited in replicating the natural movement patterns of everyday activities, making alternative functional exercises more beneficial.
  3. Can heavy weights be used for core exercises?
    • It’s advisable to use lighter weights for core exercises to emphasize strength, endurance, and range of motion without encouraging excessive muscle growth.
  4. What considerations should postpartum mothers keep in mind for core training?
    • Postpartum mothers should be cautious in the early period, adhering to specific dos and don’ts. Additional information on Diastasis Recti is available for reference.
  5. How important is rest and recovery for core muscles?
    • Similar to other muscle groups, core muscles become stronger during periods of rest. Purposefully working them every day is unnecessary, given their frequent engagement in traditional strength training exercises.
  6. Can the mentioned core exercises be performed by beginners?
    • Yes, the described exercises cater to individuals of varying fitness levels. Beginners should start with proper form and gradually increase intensity as they become more comfortable.