7 Simple Props For Stronger Core Muscles
7 Simple Props For Stronger Core Muscles
By Joe Czarnecki
If you are reading this article, you know that strong core muscles are the cornerstone of physical and mental health. Our challenge is to keep a level of excitement and intensity on a long term basis that gives us the results we want to see. These 7 props provide simple, fun and challenging solutions. Do you want to know the best part? They are all easily accessible in your gym or if you prefer, at home.
Prop 1: The Swiss Ball
The Swiss ball is a fun and challenging prop. It is made of elastic rubber with a diameter of 55 to 85 cm (22 to 34 inches). Once you are able to develop a level of comfort using this unstable surface, your self confidence will shoot through the roof.
Most often, you will see people in the gym use this ball to do abdominal crunches. One simple exercise to get started on the Swiss ball is the Russian Twist. Lie on the ball, with shoulder blades on the ball and your hips pushed up high off the ground. Place your hands together. Keep your hips up and turn your shoulders to the right so that they are perpendicular to the ground. Twist back to the starting position and then twist to the other side.
Prop 2: Medicine Ball
A Medicine ball is roughly the size of a volleyball. It is much smaller and heavier than the Swiss ball. Medicine balls are normally sold as 8lb, 10lb and 12 lb balls. They are used effectively in core training to increase explosive power for sports such as basketball and boxing.
Medicine balls are beneficial because of their concentrated weight. The ball can be used in a variety of swing exercises where the trunk remains stable and the arms move from side to side. Also, you can use the medicine ball to increase the intensity of your push ups. Simply place a smaller ball under one of your hands to create uneven push ups. Do 10 reps and place the ball under your other hand. This uneven motion forces the core to balance your body.
Prop 3: Pilates Mat
The mat can be used extensively for flexibility and core strength. A variety of exercises can be performed lying on your back, side or front. Some of the exercises can done seated on all fours. The mat exercises target the deep abdominal and spine muscles in order to provide core strength.
A few exercises that will get you started right away include flutter kicks. Lie on your mat with both knees bent and flat. Place your hands at sides. Brace your abdominals continuously to stabilize your trunk. Your lower back should be neutral. Now straighten both legs so that they are perpendicular to the floor. Slowly lower one leg to about 45-90 degrees. Return to start position and repeat with other leg.
A second mat exercise for you core involves lying flat your back with your hands at your sides. Now, point your legs up to the ceiling so that your body forms a 90 degree angle. Keeping both ankles together, move your legs in a circular motion while keeping your trunk stable. Try this motion for 10 seconds and then reverse it in the other direction.
Prop 4: Resistance Bands
Like the other props, resistance bands are inexpensive and flexible. You will be surprised at how intense this simple looking workout can be. Unlike other traditional strength training routines, using these bands will engage your core automatically.
I often use my bands as a warm up to stretch before performing other core exercises. Stretching is fundamental to proper fitness regardless of your training method. Use the bands to increase your flexibility before performing exercises on the mat or Swiss ball.
Prop 5: Dumbbells
You all know dumbbells from pumping up those biceps and building that chest. Dumbbells can be a great prop for core training.
You can use them to intensify simple exercises like pushups. For example, instead of doing basic military push ups with your hands flat on the floor; use dumbbells as your hand support. After one rep, lift one side of your body extending the dumbbell up to the ceiling while trying to balance yourself. Come down to do another rep. Then come up on the other side. Another tremendous way to use dumbbells is to complement it with a Swiss ball. Instead of doing a flat bench dumbbell press, use the Swiss ball. This will create instability which will activate the hidden core muscles.
Prop 6: Jump Rope
We all know jump rope as kids and trying to get our rhythm. However, this prop when used creatively can have a huge impact on our core muscles. The amazing thing about jump rope is that you could structure your whole workout around it. By using different weighted ropes combined with various time intervals and speed, jump rope can be the most efficient work out available.
Have fun while jumping rope. This exercise calls for your creative side. Be sure to change tempos, move from side to side and change legs. The more you change your routine, the better your core muscles will react to development.
Prop 7: Bosu Ball
The Bosu ball is a great prop for creating instability for beginners. It is not as challenging as a Swiss ball but still creates a great platform for core training. It's like a big round ball cut in half. It is a ball on top with a stable flat bottom. If you are unsure what it looks like, ask a trainer next time you are at the gym.
Try this one to get yourself started. Lie down over the bosu so that it is on your belly. Begin the superman movement. That is, lift one arm and the opposite leg. Then reverse. For example, as you lay down, lift your left arm and right leg and try to stabilize. This is a great way to strengthen your lower back and add core stability.
Now that you know these 7 props, you should never have a boring core workout again. The best piece of information you can take is the knowledge that these props are all interchangeable and can be used together. Concentrate on one prop per week for seven weeks and then go through the props again but change your exercises.
Now put these 7 props in to practice. Concentrate on a new prop every week for 7 weeks. Master the basics of core training on these props and you will see the results you desire.