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The Importance of Core Strength
If you’ve ever been to an exercise class or personal trainer, or even listened to one on TV, you’ve likely heard the phrase “work your core.” But what does that mean? What exactly is your core? Why the emphasis? It’s much more than a vague catchall for the middle of your body and defined abs.
The Bar Method’s technique centers around effectiveness, safety, and sustainability which is why it so focused on strengthening the main areas of your core: your glutes, abdominals, and back. Keeping these muscle groups strong promotes balance across the body and is the foundation for good posture, healthy joints, and minimizing injury and pain! Read on for exercises that target these key core muscles.
Your gluteus maximus is the largest single muscle in your body and when toned, gives your backside a rounded shape. Located on the sides of your seat, the gluteus medius is a smaller but no less important muscle that gives stability to your pelvis and definition to your lower half. Changing foot positions midway through this seat exercise effectively engages both parts of your glutes to burn calories and reduce strain in your hips and lower back.
- Stand an arm’s length away from a sturdy chair or countertop and place your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward. Hold onto the surface in front of you and fold forward at your hips to create an L-shape with your body.
- Soften your knees and pull your abs in. Lift one leg to seat height.
- Maintain the height of your lifted leg and draw it one inch up, one inch down. Do this for about 10 reps, then slightly faster for 20 reps. Repeat this pattern once.
- Set your foot down and position your feet in a V-shape with your heels touching and your toes turned comfortably out.
- Lift the same leg you worked before back in line with your glutes and go back to your lifts for 10 slower reps and 20 quicker ones. Repeat one more time.
- Repeat on the other leg.
- After both legs are complete, slide your feet close to each other and fold forward while holding onto your support to stretch your entire back, seat, and hamstrings. If you are more flexible, reach your hands down to the floor for a deeper release.
A true multi-tasker, pretzel transforms your silhouette by working your glutes, waistline, and back…all while sitting down! Quickly feel the burn along the entire side of your body, from your obliques in your lower waist and back, to your gluteus medius in the corner of your seat. The rotation of the hips also encourages pelvic stability and improves mobility in those with tight hips over time.
- Sit on the floor with your right leg in front of you and bend it in half. For extra support, you can sit on a riser or throw pillow.
- Hold onto your left ankle with your left hand and draw your left knee back in line with your hip.
- Use the heel of your left hand to rotate your hip forward and down. Raise your left foot while keeping your left knee on the floor to help find the right angle for you.
- Place your opposite, right hand on the floor as far to the side as you need to comfortably angle your torso away from your working leg. Bend your right elbow and lean into your hand for support.
- Lift your left knee off of the floor just enough to engage the side of your seat. Lift slowly for 10 reps and quickly for 20 reps.
- Repeat this circuit five times, then do a half-lotus or seated figure-four stretch before switching legs.
Strong abdominals help lessen the stress on your back and give you more power in your daily tasks. One cough or sneeze tells you how connected your abs are to so many other parts of the body! This classic Bar Method move engages your rectus abdominis, more commonly known as your six-pack abs, and works double time to tone your midsection by continuously contracting your muscles.
- Lie flat on your back and cross one knee over the other with your inner thighs pressed together as is comfortable. Draw your knees in above your hips and press your lower back firmly into the floor.
- Cross your arms over your chest and lift your elbows to point at your knees. Focus your gaze upward to keep your neck long.
- Slowly curl your upper and lower halves closer to each other, then back out so that your head resets on the floor but your feet stay floating. Repeat at this slow tempo 5 more times, then stay as compact as you can at the top and curl more quickly in a one-inch range 30 times.
- Switch the cross of your legs and repeat the circuit on the other side.
- To stretch, bring your hands behind your head and gently draw both knees to the floor on one side, then the other. Flip over onto your hands and knees to gently round your spine in a cat stretch.
Take this mindfulness with you through the day (and your next Bar Method class) and remember how attention to building a strong core pays dividends!