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The belly-blasting exercise you should try

Riddle Hospital September 17, 2014 General Wellness By Katy Palotas

Your workout should give you more than it takes from you. There's no value in getting tired for the sake of getting tired. Your workout should be focused around making you better. You may fatigue and be tired after a good workout but, you should be feeling better than when you walked in. There is no merit in doing something just to make you miserable, tired or hinder your recovery. Do things that make you stronger, make you better and get you toward your goals faster, not slower.

One of the most important things you can do during a workout is strengthen your core. There are many benefits to having a strong set of core muscles, including a reduced risk of injury during exercise, better balance and better posture. One of the best ways to strengthen your core is the plank exercise.

If you’ve never performed a plank, you might be wondering how balancing on your toes and elbows is supposed to work your core. Good question. As you balance, gravity will pull your midsection towards the ground and your lower back will have the tendency to sag. To prevent this, you'll need to contract your abdominal muscles to keep your body properly aligned, which is where the core-strengthening component of planks comes in.

The beauty of a plank is that it doesn't need to be done in the gym or during your workout—it's an exercise that can be done anywhere you have the time and space to do it. Give the traditional plank below a try or, if you're a beginner, start with one of its many variations.

traditional plank

Traditional plank

Brace your core by contracting your abs. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. If you’re having trouble initially holding the plank position, try the modified plank exercise. Everything is the same except that instead of balancing on your toes you will balance on your knees. This is a simple variation and is a great starting point if you lack abdominal strength.

side plank

Side planks

Lying on side with forearm placed on mat, raise body up so that it forms a straight line. Hold position and repeat on opposite side.

hip flexion on the ball

Hip flexion on the ball

Facing towards the floor, place feet on ball and extend arms so body is parallel with floor. Bring the ball towards the chest by bending knees in toward the body. Return to starting position and repeat.

mountain climbers

Mountain climbers

Place hands on floor, slightly wider than shoulder width. On forefeet, position one leg forward bent under body and extend other leg back. While holding upper body in place, alternate leg positions by pushing hips up while immediately extending forward leg back and pulling rear leg forward under body, landing on both forefeet simultaneously.

Katy Palotas is the manager at the Riddle Fitness Center.