Written by Dulsey Stewart, RYT200, RCYT

When you begin a new fitness regime, it most commonly has a core workout element. Core work is one of the most basic and essential parts of your fitness journey because your entire body is held together by your core.  It is also one of the most mundane parts of your workout because of the repetitions, and therefore often overlooked or skipped altogether. However, a short 4-minute core workout each day could prove many benefits to your overall health. Not only does a strong, leaner midsection give you a boost in self-confidence, but it provides many health benefits too. 

If you have poor balance or weak posture, core work should be first on your list. Without strengthening your core, you can suffer from lower back, hip, or ankle pain, as weight tends to shift to the front of your midsection and to around your shoulders. A muscular, straight spine creates safer weight distribution throughout the body, minimizing pain. A higher risk of chronic illness can also be linked to having a larger waist. Diet also plays a critical role in reducing the circumference of your waist. But core exercises lead to more muscle mass, which burns more calories than fat. By reducing your overall weight, you have less risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and more. Having a stronger core also makes you a better athlete.  Strong core muscles will help energize other muscle groups and build a more powerful version of yourself.

Here are a few core workouts you can do each day.  Download an app on your phone with a Tabata timer, like Gymboss. Set your timer to 4 minutes, 20 seconds of work, and 10 seconds of rest/transition.  Pick two of the following exercises to rotate. Once you find the 4 minutes to be easy, double it.

Basic Sit-Up – You can get as fancy as you want, but nothing beats a traditional sit-up. Lay on your back, bend your knees, and plant your feet towards your glutes. You can bring your hands behind your head (but do not pull on your neck) or let your arms be free and use some momentum, especially just starting. Set yourself up and lower back down. Make sure to go slow and be intentional to make this more effective.

Reverse Crunches – Lay on your back with your feet in the air, knees slightly bent or straight. Begin by lifting the pelvis one or two inches off the floor and lower back down.  If you would like you can add lowering your heels to the floor and keep your legs straight in between each lift.

Ankle Touches – Lay on your back with your heels towards the glutes. Start by lifting the shoulders off the mat with your hands by your hips.  Reach one hand toward the ankle and then switch to the other. Ankle touches are a great oblique exercise that can replace a side plank.

Plank – Begin with your hand below your shoulders, pressing the floor away from you, lifting yourself. You can begin on your knees or lift until your hips line up with your shoulders until your spine is straight.  Hold still and breathe. 

These four exercises are a strong foundation to build your workouts and your core strength. Take notice of what improvements you witness with your overall health once you start to see results.

About the author: Dulsey Stewart is a Yoga Teacher at Pure Hot Yoga, and owner of FitbyD Fitness and Wellness.

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