JOE's post-workout tips: A great core workout for the New Year
After over-doing it a bit at Christmas, a few of us might be looking to work on our core in the New Year
We should be clear from the off here, that working your core doesn't just mean your abs, and that these exercises alone are not going to give you a six pack. If that's what your goal is, then almost all of that will be achieved with proper nutrition in the kitchen.
When you focus on your core, what you're working are your abs, your hips and your lower back, and that will give you the strength for functional movements, as well as a better midsection. One simple thing you can do outside the gym to help your core, before we even start, is to stop slouching! So sit up straight and read the rest of this.
Working your core doesn't mean that you necessarily need to move at all. Your core's job is to stabilise everything when you move your spine, so training it means that you want to stay still and help it to build up better resistance and strength. While the plank is extremely simple, it is also one of the best exercises for training your core and you will see the benefits of that in every exercise that you do. When it comes to form, most people will have one of two main problems with the plank: either they lower their hips and their lower back, making it look like you're sinking towards the ground, or your hips are too high (above the line of your shoulders) and you're not getting any benefit from the exercise. If the plank isn't done correctly, not only will you not see any benefit but you can also aggravate any lower back problems, or end up giving yourself lower back problems, so as always, form is key.
Make sure that your spine is neutral, ensuring that your shoulders don't shrug backwards, and your back retains its natural curvature (don't force your hips up). Your neck should be in the same line, making sure that you don't force your neck and head up (this can be a common problem when exerting yourself) or that you drop your head and drag your neck down. If you're not sure, consult a trainer in the gym, and they'll be able to correct your form. When you do get the right form, you will notice it straight away. Why? Because it is very, very difficult, and you'll feel the burn, as they say. Hold the position for 30 seconds, and over time build up to holding it for 60 seconds.
Not hard enough? Then there are a few variants that should definitely make you break a sweat. Firstly, try lifting one arm when you're performing the plank, and holding it straight out. If you imagine that you're pointing towards 2 o'clock, that should help you to get the right position. Raise and lower your arm slowly, holding each position for two seconds, and as that becomes easier over time, build up to holding it for five seconds, first your left arm, then your right. That's one rep. Perform three sets of ten. Resist the temptation to lean to one side when lifting your arms, and you'll reap the benefits.
Alternatively, you can lift your leg in a similar alternating way, keeping each one of the ground for five seconds, first your left leg, then your right. That's one rep. Again, perform three sets of ten, and make sure to keep your breathing regular.
Single Leg Lower
Lying on your back, lift both your legs straight up in the air. From there, lower one leg, leaving the other straight up. Get as close as you can to the ground without your leg touching the floor, and then raise it back up to your other leg. Make sure that you don't let the leg that you have straight up start to drop (this can happen when you tire) and go through the range of movement slowly. Perform three sets of ten repetitions on each leg.
The cable crunch is another exercise where form is going to be key. As JOE's mates at Raw Condition Gym in Dublin showed us already, you want to make sure that you set the weight heavy enough to support you when you're leaning forward, and that you're not moving backwards so that your bum ends up on your heels. We'll let Anthony explain, he's the pro here:
Go for three sets of 10-12 reps, whatever you feel you can do. Over time, you should build up the weight and again, make sure to progress through the movements slowly.
Cable Single Leg to Squat Row
This is a difficult exercise to master, but once you do, it will be a great addition to your core workout. Set the pulley on the cable machine to a mid-height, and attach a single handle. Grab the handle with your right hand and with a slight bend in your left leg at the knee, put your right leg out behind you, relatively straight and ensure that it's not touching the floor. Gain your balance and hold this position until you're comfortable. Starting from here, with your palm facing left, row the handle towards you and at the same time lift your knee towards your chest. Your elbow should pass your torso with the handle ending up at your hip, while your knee should come up and finish in a 90 angle from your body.
This is a difficult exercise to master, but it will also improve your balance as well as your core strength. Again, do three sets of ten to twelve reps on each leg, and start at a light weight to ensure your form is correct.
One of the key factors with any workout program is nutrition, as we've already mentioned, and you need to make sure you get some protein to help maintain and grow muscle mass. For something that’s delicious, try Mooju chocolate milk. With over 10g of protein in a 250ml container, as well as carbohydrate, Mooju is a great choice for your workout.