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Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Core Challenge

A few comments on my plank post got me thinking about core work and it's a really important part of training. It helps with balance, stability and power, virtually all athletic movements involve and use the core muscles and therefore it is vital we strengthen it. Now I've been slacking a bit in my core work, I haven't always managed the two workouts I try to do per week, so, I thought about doing a challenge for one month, starting this week and ending on May 2nd. I thought we could have a weekly check in, say if everyone comments on my weekly total post to say how they've been getting on on the Saturday then on Sunday I can post an update on everyone. If you're up for it, the challenge is to do core twice a week for one month, I'll post some exercise ideas but you're free to do what suits you. Also I thought to show improvement we could all test our plank holds at the beginning of the month and aim to improve our times over the month, that means I have to get more than 3.33... now that is a daunting idea!

The reps you do for each exercise shown below should be done bearing your own ability in mind. You should perform the exercises until it you feel a good burn around your midsection and then a little more but not to failure. I didn't want to put specific reps for each exercise because what works for me won't be right for everyone so do reps which are challenging for you!

One of the best core moves is the ab rollout, you can start by doing them on your knees and progress over time to doing them from standing. The idea is to work your way up to being able to do it from standing to pretty being flat on the floor and back up again without a wall to help... That's a very advanced variation that can sometimes take years to acheive. Neither Mike or I can do that yet so we use some of the variations shown below, standing to a wall and kneeling.

Kneeling roll-outs (not to a wall if you can)

Standing roll-outs to a wall (make sure to put a cushion, or something soft on your wall so you don't ruin the paintwork..speaking from experience unfortunately!)

Another way we like to train our core is to pick and mix to create a circuit and try to continually work for 15-20 minutes. If that is too long don't worry, shorten it to a time that is something that challenges you but don't injure yourself.

Here's some of our favourite exercises to choose from but feel free to add your own!

Leg Raises
Start low, hold for 10 seconds then raise and hold again, then repeat, lower down holding each phase as well. You can also slowly move one leg in and alternate between for a variation on the leg raise. It's much more challenging if you don't sit on your hands.. not sure why! Also from the leg raise hold you can circle your legs slowly in both directions (not pictured).

Hanging Leg Raises
These are tough! Done from a pull-up bar start from a 90 degree hang and raise your legs to 90 degrees, try to keep your legs straight.

Captain's Chair
Start again from a 90 degree hang on the pull-up bar and raise your legs up with your knees bent.

Hanging Knees to Elbow
Again start by hanging with arms at 90 degrees and then bring your knees up to your elbows.

Try to keep your bum down and body straight

Side Plank
This can also be done with a little movement to good effect, you bob your hips up and down, aim for high reps.

As well as doing these fast you can do high tension holds, hold the pose in the second picture for 10 seconds, release and repeat until you feel it.

Sit-ups with a Twist
These are good for getting the side core muscles.

Sit-ups with Medicine Ball
...or home made sandbag in my case, this is around 10kg but choose a weight accordingly.

Russian Twist
Put a fairly challenging weight on a dumbbell and starting from the middle position turn to each side with the weight. Beware of the weights coming loose on this one if you have dumbbells with twist on locks as they can work themselves loose. Also remember to lift with your legs and not your back to get it up to the starting position.

Side Bends
Again use a challenging weight, be careful to lift with your legs and not back. Once in position slide the weight down your leg keeping your free arm by your side or touching your ear, whichever is more comfortable.

I find these pretty tough but they're good!

Alternate Knees to Elbow
Bring your elbows to alternate knees

Post Core Stretch
I think this is a yoga move but I can't remember what it's called! Anyway do as I say and not as I do and try and remember to do this, I guarantee you'll feel better for it the next day! I forgot yesterday and doing these pictures hurt like hell!

Now since it's a comptetition there will be a small prize, an ab wheel, and if you already have an ab wheel I'll think of something else since I haven't bought it yet! To enter in to the prize draw you must complete two core workouts a week, starting this week, Monday the 5th of April and ending Sunday the 2nd May. From everyone who completes two core workouts a week I'll pick a winner randomly at the end of the challenge. Please comment on this post to enter and I would appreciate you posting on your blogs if you're participating then hopefully more people might be interested in getting involved. Don't worry if you don't have a blog though, you can still join in! So bring on the super strong cores we're all going to get!

Edited to add, for people who want it, I'll post two sample core workouts a week then you can do those if you want to!


  1. WOW! you were fast pulling that together!!!! this is excellent, thank you so much. i think i can do most of those!!! :) i need one of those door bar thingies!

  2. This is a good idea! I need to work on getting some strength training into my workouts. I'm in!

  3. Brilliant informative post, count me in! My current maximum doing the plank is 30 seconds so I damn hope I can improve on that!

  4. I'm IN! I'll for sure do some of those workouts, and i'm on for the plank

    oh, and can I just say..i think it's so sweet how Mike poses for strength training poses for you blog.

    seriously, so sweet.;-)

  5. Wow! This is an extremely informative post...thanks!
    Alright then, I'm in! I already have yoga and strength training twice a week each (and both include some core) hopefully, I can use those for the challenge. What I will do is add two extra core exercises to my strength workouts :)

  6. oh i forgot to tell you i would sign up :) i will do core 2x a week!

  7. Oh, OK. Sign me up! I'll be wearing a bikini in less than three weeks ...

    I'll try to figure out a core workout I can add to my schedule (and will be sure to post about it!)

  8. Is it too late to sign-up?! i heart you chica! xoxo!

  9. This is a great idea and I need it! Thanks for shouting out to me! I believe if I get my core in shape...which will take a while...I will cut down on my other injuries! So I am in!!!!

  10. Count me in! Most of those are moves I don't currently do so I'm gonna be changing things up around here.

  11. I just found you through Marcia and would love to join! I have been meaning to start doing core twice a week for ages now. This could be what I need to actually come through :) Plus I love the logo.