Everyone wants strong, toned abs to look in the mirror and admire, but toning your abs without working your back can lead to muscle imbalance and even back pain. With strengthening, endurance and stretching, these four simple exercises will keep your core stay in top shape.
The classic lunge works your stabilizing muscles from your back all the way into your calves. Put your hands on your hips, contract your abs, lunge until one knee is at a 90-degree angle, and straighten again. Repeat ten times per leg.
When this becomes too easy, hold a free weight in each hand while you lunge, or put your foot out at an different angles when you lunge.
The plank has the benefit of working both your back and your abs at once, improving strength and endurance. Lie on the floor propped on your forearms. Keeping your back straight, abs contracted and hips tilted, push up onto your elbows and toes.
As a variant, lie on your side, propped on an elbow directly below your shoulder, with your feet together. Contract your abs and lift your hips off the floor, making yourself into a straight line. Hold each of these for twenty to forty seconds, repeating two or three times.
Though unpleasantly named, this yoga position is excellent for stretching and releasing tension from your back muscles. Lie flat on your back with your arms to your sides and slowly rotate your knees outward. Breathe through it, stopping before becomes uncomfortable, and relax until your back feels adequately stretched.
To really give your back a stretch, try the simple but demanding Locust. Lie on your stomach with your arms to your sides. Bend your elbows, point your fingers toward your feet, and raise your legs up as much as you can.
Hold for one second, then release. Repeat ten times if you can, but stop if you experience pain. The Locust not only stretches but improves endurance.
These core exercises are an excellent addition to your abdominal exercise routine, especially as a balance to the Flex Belt or other ab machine. True power comes not just from strong abs, but from a strong core overall. Never forget to work out your back.