Tone Your Trunk

By Kimberly Dawn Neumann

September 16, 2004

Whether you’re an apple or a pear, it’s important not to ignore your core! We’re talking, of course, about the muscles that make up your middle: abdominals, obliques and erector spinae. To create a whittled waist, you need to work not only your abs (from several directions), but also your lower back. This, in conjunction with achieving a desirable body weight through regular exercise and a prudent diet, will result in a balanced bod that looks great and functions well.

“A strengthened core can help rid you of back pain, while allowing you to perform your daily functions such as carrying your toddler or groceries with greater ease,” says Meg Moore, a fitness expert and personal trainer at the ultra-hip New York City gym Clay.

Moore helped us develop this all-inclusive core workout which will strengthen your abs and back from every angle. Perform 1-3 sets of 12- 20 reps (or the requisite time for the Forearm Plank) at least 3 times per week and you’ll be on your way to a solid center. As with any exercise program, consult your physician before you begin.

1. Floor Bridge – Lie on back, knees bent, feet flat on floor hip- width apart, arms straight by hips, palms facing down. Without arching back and keeping shoulders and head glued to the floor, squeeze glutes and lift pelvis until body is in a diagonal line from knees to shoulders. Slowly lower pelvis by bending at the hip joint, to come close to the ground. Complete all reps before releasing all the way to the floor.

2. Bicycles – Lie on back, knees over hips bent to 90-degree angles. Clasp hands lightly behind head and lift shoulder blades off the ground, keeping chin tucked to chest. Rotate torso sending right shoulder across body as left knee moves towards shoulder and right leg fully extends to a 45-degree angle. Switch sides in a slow, controlled manner such that right knee pulls in towards left shoulder and left leg extends.

3. Side Plank Lifts – Lie on right side, weight supported on right elbow, forearm perpendicular to body, shoulder joint directly over elbow, left arm resting on left thigh. With left foot stacked on top of right (keeping ankle on the floor), push down with right shoulder while lifting hips off floor until body makes one long diagonal from head to feet. Slowly lower hips. Repeat all reps on right before flipping to left side.

* Easier modification – Perform with knees bent, thighs in line with body but calves at 90-degree angles behind. Lift hips to make line from head to knees.

4. Timed Forearm Plank – Lie on stomach with weight on forearms, elbows directly beneath shoulder joints, hands clasped, head aligned with spine. Tuck toes under, engage abdominals and lift body off the floor (pushing shoulders down) such that body is in a straight line from head to toe. Don’t let back sway or hips pike. Hold 15-30 seconds and release. Breathe normally throughout.

* Easier modification – Start in the same position, but instead of tucking toes, cross ankles and lift body up keeping knees on floor. If you feel any discomfort in the lower back, try slightly tucking pelvis.

5. Cobra – Lie on stomach, forehead touching floor, feet together, hands beneath your shoulders, elbows bent to 90-degree angles, palms on the floor. Squeezing glutes and engaging abs, slowly lift chest off ground. Hands rise slightly from floor, or fingertips may remain touching for balance but they shouldn’t assist with the lifting. Don’t tilt chin up. Slowly lower back to floor. Repeat. Raise chest only the distance that feels comfortable for you.

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