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Extremely fit

Published:Monday | April 23, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Engage your core and keeping your back straight, twist from one side to the next. - Contributed
Sit with feet a few inches off the ground and balance. - Contributed

Core fitness

Core fitness exercises have become synonymous with abdominal conditioning. Without proper strength and conditioning of all core muscles, injury, aches and pains can occur more frequently. The core of the body is responsible for supporting the back, spine and shoulders. Core-fitness exercises should aim to strengthen all muscles related to the areas.

Choosing effective core-fitness exercises

In order to choose effective core-fitness exercises, you must first learn about the muscles supporting the core of the body. The core muscles begin at the top of the abdominal trunk and run down to the lower torso. These muscles include the:

Gluteus muscle group: Muscles of the middle hip and buttocks area, including gluteus medius, minimus, and maximus. Hamstring muscles are also included in the gluteus muscles.

Hip muscle group: Muscles of the upper hip and pelvis, including the hip flexors and hip adductors.

Abdominal muscle group: Muscles of the front and side trunk including the external and internal obliques, traverse abdominis, and rectus abdominus.

Spinae muscle group: Muscle group supporting the spine including the erector spinae and multifidus.

Improved posture

Core-fitness exercises also support proper posture. Imbalances of posture can lead to improper weight-lifting form, injuries, and undue pressure on the lower back. Pressure and pain of the lower back is a common symptom of weak core muscles.

Improved balance

The abdominal muscles are important to core stability and strength. When the abdominal muscles are weak, the lower back holds additional pressure and weight from simple daily tasks like walking. When exercising, this pressure grows exponentially leading to painful back injuries. Strengthening the abdominal muscles allows the weight of the upper body to be evenly distributed over the front and back. When weight is distributed, balance improves.

Russian twists

This exercise enables all core muscles to work together.

Sit on your butt with knees bent towards the ceiling. Holding your legs with your hands, lift your feet one inch off the ground and balance. When your balance is perfect and your back straight, engage your core and clasp your hands in front of you. Twist down from one side to the next, tapping your elbows to the mat. Do it 25 times each side.

Advanced: Hold a hand weight or medicine ball while twisting - super effective for core and abs.

Be careful with the weight you use and don't start off with too much as this will make it unconformable for your lower back.

Remember, you have to stretch before you start the exercise.

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