As a fitness professional for over a decade, I have pretty much seen it all. Especially when it comes to core-based exercise. When you consider trying to bring some more attention to your midsection (and your obliques), a few things are important to consider:
Core work flat on your back is out!
Think about it, how do you spend your day? Upright! So doesn’t it make more sense to work with gravity in that manner?
Focus on feeling rather than doing.
Find guides that really help you tune into not only what you should be doing, but what you should and shouldn’t be feeling. If you need somewhere to start, consider my Mindful Movement Online Studio (just $9.99/month)
Work from the inside out.
No matter what you do, everything is core work. That being said, it all starts with a conscious pelvic-core (pelvic floor muscles plus deep core muscles) contraction.
We have a deep oblique — called the internal oblique — and an external oblique. These muscles overlap each other.
We need our obliques for many things: They offer support and stability for the back and hips. When developed properly, they improve spinal support, movement and function, as well as the relationship between the rib cage and pelvis. Strength to twist, bend sideways and rotate comes a great deal from our amazing obliques.
Here is one of my favorite tributes to our famous obliques:
- Start in a kneeling position (be sure to pad your knees if necessary), and grab your weight (if using one).
- Find neutral pelvis (your pubis bone and hip bones should run parallel with the wall you are facing).
- Contract your pelvic-core muscles (think bathroom muscles and torso muscles, much like when you cough).
- Steadily extend your right leg out to the side, turning your right foot parallel to your knee. Be sure to anchor your foot into the floor.
- Holding your weight in front of your chest, draw your elbows wide and relax your shoulders.
- Inhale, tip to the left as far as you can control, without folding in your left hip.
- Exhale, feel your waist (obliques) carry you back up with control. You should not feel any downward pressure into your pelvic floor when you lift (remember to keep those muscles strong).
- Repeat this process 10 times on each side. After you have repeated this on both sides, go back to your weaker side and complete the process again for a 2-to-1 ratio (weaker to stronger). If the weight creates too much tension work, do this exercise without added weight in front and instead hold opposite elbows with your forearms at chest height.
Here are some more resources on firing up your obliques!
Have fun and keep at it!
This post was originally published on Nature’s Pathways, and updated on 10/4/19.
Movement, working out, exercise… call it what you want. It and I (is that how you say it?) have a very special relationship.
Movement is partly what saved me from a life-strangling eating disorder. When I’m not moving, long story short, it is often a slippery slope to the land of sorrows, depression, and anxiety. There is something so amazing about feeling strong, feeling alive, and feeling in my body. I love exploring movements. I love being creative and pushing myself in a way that can best serve my body.
But too much of anything can be a bad thing – even exercise. As I get older I’m more conscious of my joints, my bones. I’m trying to stay pain-free, not just trim and fit.
About two years ago, I took a very bad fall and it landed me a slow recovery and a body that felt like it was well into it’s 70’s or 80’s. Muscles wouldn’t let go of the trauma, and I started to develop imbalances that were wreaking havoc on my body that I fought so hard to keep living in.
Rediscovering resistance bands was one thing that jump-started my body’s recovery and really began to heal my injuries and imbalances without pushing it too hard (and I had no intention of being as big as the Incredible Hulk). Resistance bands are an unappreciated piece of exercise equipment. So many get sucked into believing that the more expensive, the better. Truth be told, bands are great! Think of them as one step up from bodyweight exercises and super nurturing to your joints!
How do resistance bands work?
Unlike weights, resistance bands don’t rely on gravity. The more you stretch the bands, the more they resist your movement. Want to work harder? Increase the stretch in the band! When you work with a free weight, you can only go as far as your joint will allow. With a band, create more resistance and you have just increased your workout. I love resistance bands because you can get way more creative than you can with weights. And they are so portable!
Here are some of my current favorite moves when it comes to working with resistance bands:
Resistance Band Exercises
Foot Work with Resistance Bands
Place a tied resistance band about the length of your forearm and place it over the balls of your feet. Stretch the band just enough so there is no slack. Keeping a tall body (no rib thrusting or booty pushing), start to march in place. Really work to lift your knee without leaning back or tipping forward. March in place 30 times.
Next ground into one leg and keep a strong neutral rotation on the leg (pit of the back of the knee pointing back and on dumping into the hip), engage your glute and press out with the opposite leg for a lateral lift. Think about kicking out with the heel, not the toes (almost like internal rotation). Do this 10-20 times on each side.
Standing strong in neutral, feet grounded and no rib thrusting. Place your fists inside the tied off resistance band. First anchor your elbows at your sides and press out with both fists (the movement comes from the elbow) on an exhalation.
Try this for 10-20 times. Next keeping your upper body strong and stable pull one fist up and one fist down, like your arms are marching in place. Do this 10-20 times. Finally pull your fists diagonally and then back to center 10-20 times. Notice which arm is stronger and tune into making sure you don’t dominate the movements with that stronger arm.
This was a lifesaver for me because my left hip and hamstring weren’t cooperating, and my right glute was weak (very unstable pulley system). Place the tied off resistance band around your ankles (shoes optional) and walk 30 paces forward and back in the following ways:
Wide Monster Strides (pull the band as wide as you can comfortably and walk forward and back)
Normal Walk (Walk in a normal hips distance and stretch the band with enough resistance when you walk)
Diagonal Walk (Step to the right one foot at a time, then to the left, alternating forward and back)
Sideways Walker (Create a slight squat and step foot to foot to the right, then to the left)
So many think their workout has to be at the gym in workout clothes and X minutes long to be “worth it.” Here’s the thing: I carry my bands with me in my car. Yes, I do a three-minute workout here or there and it all adds up! To step out of the box, you have to start to think out of the box!
And you might as well add resistance bands into that thinking too!
Don’t have bands? I got you covered! Grab this kit and join me!