The idea of being fit goes beyond weight loss, flaunting a flat tummy (or better still, well-toned ‘abs’) and a shapely body. Yes, these are desirable manifestations that we might aspire for, but more reliable indicators of fitness are strength, stamina, flexibility, agility and so on.
Building a strong core- comprising the entire torso between the shoulder and hip joint- spine, lower back, hips, abdomen and pelvic muscles- is a solid foundation for long-term fitness, even for its more visible aspects mentioned above.
The key question then is how do you work on building your core strength?
It is quite common to see women performing lots of sit-ups and crunches with the aim of having a flatter belly and returning to pre-pregnancy shape. While these have their own benefits, it is important to remember that crunches – no matter how many or how intense- will not magically result in a selective fat loss from the abdominal region because the claims of spot reduction simply are not supported by research. Body part–specific exercise does not create a preferential fat loss in one region of the body over another.
So, what they need are exercises that can target the muscles involved and begin to yield the desired strengthening. Thankfully, there are some relatively simple exercises that can be performed easily within the comforts of your home. Let’s focus on three different types of “planks” or “planking exercises” (exercises that target the entire abdominal and pelvic area) to start with.
#1: How to do the elbow plank
Follow these steps to do the elbow plank.
- Start by lying face down, resting your elbows on the ground, shoulder width apart.
- Push yourself off the ground, resting your weight on your elbows and legs.
- Straighten your body and rest your weight on your elbows and toes.
- Do not pop your butt out, and make sure that you don’t droop either.
- Hold the position for as long as you can, gradually increasing the duration that you hold the posture for, breathing regularly.
- Repeat three times.
#2: Turning to the sides: the side plank
Doing the side plank is slightly more difficult, but has shown to be mighty effective. Here’s how you can do the side plank at home.
- Lay down on your side with one foot resting on top of the lower one, and the forearm resting on the floor directly under your shoulder.
- Contract your core muscles and raise your torso and hips so that your body forms a straight line.
- Make sure that you are balancing on the side of your foot, and not on your soles.
- Your head and neck should be in a straight line, and your torso should not droop.
- Hold the position for as long as you can, gradually increasing the time, as your core strength increases.
#3: Strength with stability: Plank on a fit/stability ball
If you want to really challenge your core muscles, then get a fit/ stability ball and start planking! Make sure that you use the right size of an exercise ball.
Here are the steps to plank on a fit ball:
- Place your legs on the fit ball, while your arms support your torso and head.
- Rest your palms on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
- Make sure that your body is straight, with your abdominal muscles clenched.
- Don’t let your hip pop or droop. Hold the position for as long as you can, gradually increasing the duration.
Things to remember while doing planks at home
Even though these exercises are fairly simple to do, please take care of some essential guidelines for a safe and productive exercise session.
- Do some light warm-up exercises before you push yourself too much.
- Always use a good, non-slipping exercise mat that gives you a good grip.
- Clench your abdominal muscles when planking, as that will help build the strength.
- Gradually increase the duration that you hold the plank position while ensuring that your posture is correct.
Happy exercising – and more strength & power to you!
Author bio –
Munmun Ganeriwal, founder of Yuktahaar is a well-known Mumbai- based Dietitian, Nutritionist & Fitness Consultant specializing in Indian food diets. An ardent advocate of local & traditional Indian food, she is India’s only professional to have acquired both a Master’s Degree in Nutrition Science and International Certification of Health Fitness Instructor from the American College of Sports Medicine. She has been studying & practicing Iyengar Yoga. Over the last 15 years, she has worked as a Nutrition and Exercise Consultant with a diverse set of clients from all walks of life. You can follow her at www.munmunganeriwal.com
You can contact her at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer – This information of exercises are for educational purposes only, and is not to be taken as a recommendation for a specific treatment plan or course of action. Consult your doctor before starting any exercise regime.