It’s honestly a mad world. Two months ago we were talking about the pandemic, lockdowns, vaccinations and today we are talking about war. I’m not a foreign policy expert or a medical professional. I’ll leave the analyses to the experts, but of course as a human, I am affected by the state of the world. And just as the pandemic led to stress and uncertainty for the individual, some of us will be more or less affected by the stress of this war.
My best advice, if affected by stress, is to clear the head. Go outside. Run, walk, bike, swim – if you can’t or won’t do that, then go to a gym, lift, pull, push, or stay at home and stretch, jump, dance and feel. The endorphins released will make your mood better, the muscles activated will make you stronger and the movements will make you feel alive. All of that will lift your spirit. Even in times like these.
So for a good home-training session let’s talk about that coveted midsection, that all swimwear and underwear brands love to flaunt in our faces. The thing most of us dream about, when we go on a diet or start training in the gym. Men and women alike.
I’m here to tell you, the midsection does matter. It is important to have a strong core, but NOT because of visible six-pack reasons. A strong core is important as you walk, run, jump and carry. Without core-strength you open yourself up to lower back pain and all kinds of back problems as you get older.
For my March column, I’ll share two abs/core exercises, which are more than ‘just sit ups’. As a fan of functional training, I like exercises which target more than just one area. ‘Getting more value for your bucks’ so to speak.
Leglifts: First is leg-lifts, which targets abs and core and legs. This exercise can be done in many ways and I’ll talk you through a few of the options here.
Start position beginners: Lie straight on your back, hands under the buttocks (this will support your lower back and make the position a little more comfortable). Keep your legs together and straight as you lift them up around 30 cm from the ground. Pause and lower them slowly. Keep full control as you do this.
To engage more leg muscles, keep your legs straight and together, lift them up. When up, open to sides – still keeping them straight (horizontal scissor legs). Close and then lower in full control again.
A third version is to lift one leg further 10-20 cm up and then swap position with the other leg (vertical scissor legs).
A more advanced version of the leg lift is to do all the leg exercises with the upper-body lifted from the ground. Raise the upper-body from the ground by resting on the elbows/underarms. This position targets abs/core and legs primarily and the muscles close to the spine and muscles around the shoulders and upper back secondary.
My recommendation is three sets of 10-12 repetitions in each set. If you combine this with other exercises such as push ups, burpees or squats you can lower the number as it fits.
Sideplank: My second all time favourite home training core exercise is the Side Plank.
The Side Plank is great because it activates muscles from head to toe (just to keep your body balanced), besides targeting the obliques.
Start position is either lie on your side, supporting your weight on the elbow or the hand and your foot or knee. To make it harder (and higher) use hand and foot, easier (and lower) elbow and knee. Or you can do a combination, as I have chosen in the photo.
Lift your midsection from the floor, until your body form a line (a plank). Keep it straight and up for a number of seconds/breaths and then lower controlled to the floor.
To make it harder, you can bend the other leg a number of times. This will increase the muscles needed to keep your balance. You can also stretch the other arm up or make dips with your hips.
I recommend doing three sets of 30 seconds for beginners, 45-60 seconds for intermediates.
During my run and training sessions, I always take a minute to think about the world outside my own. And for now peace will be in my thoughts as well.
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