Lately, I’ve notice my core isn’t as strong as it used to be. While I was nursing my broken toe earlier in the year I was going to pilates at least twice a week which has a strong focus on the core. Now I’m back doing more intense exercises I don’t find I am focusing on my core as much and so my core strength and stability has been a little worse for wear, not to mention that summer is on it’s way and I’d rather leave the baker to deal with the rolls instead of my stomach. Know the feeling? So here’s the 3 pilates core strengthening exercises that I am now doing daily to strengthen my core! There’s an instructional video and photos for easy reference. Let’s get strong and toned! Are you in?
Two of these exercises I learnt from Vanessa B Health a Sydney pilates teacher who has previously written for me on Eat Pray Workout. She shared her expertise on the difference between a 6 pack and a strong core.
Watch my instructional video below the first time around to learn the different levels of the exercises and then after that you can just refer to the images or pin this page on pinterest so you have the written instructions.
Core strengthening exercise 1: Pointer Balance
Tests: deeper core muscle balance and pelvic stability
Level 1 Pointer Balance
In 4 point kneeling (hands under shoulders, knees under hips), draw in abdominals. Stretch out right arm and left leg, lifting off floor. Hold the position for 30 seconds on each side without tilting or falling. If successful and you could balance say a plate of food or bottle of water steadily on your upper and lower back while doing this (you can try this!) then this would be a successful level 1.
Level 2 Pointer Balance
Level 2 requires the same as level 1 (stretch out with your opposite arm and leg) but this time tilt the back foot off the floor so you are balancing only on your knee. This will really show you if your right and left obliques, and deep core are working well.
Core strengthening exercise 2 – Plank
Tests: the strength of your back and core stabilisers.
Level 1 Plank – elbows and feet on floor
How to do: place elbows under shoulders, tuck toes under and straighten legs out for full plank position. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Level 2 Plank – one leg raised
My photos for this level two aren’t great – my butt is up slightly too high! Remember you want a broom stick to go across your back and be straight.
If you found level 1 easy try level 2. Lift the right leg up for 20 seconds, then swap to the leg left leg for 20 seconds.
Level 3 Plank – one arm raised
If level two was achievable or easy, you can progress to then stretching out 1 arm at a time for 15 seconds.
Level 4 Plank – one arm and one leg raised
The final and most difficult variation of the plank is having one arm and one leg raised. This requires a lot of core strength and I struggle to hold it #workinprogress. I think if you can hold this for 10-15 seconds each side, you’re doing really well.
Try both the opposite arm and leg for 10 seconds, progressing you to a level 4. If you fall at anytime before completing Level 4, then you record where you got to.
3. Core exercise 3 – Dish hold
This was an exercise I did as a kid at gymnastics, it’s popular there as it teaches you the ‘hollow hold’ a foundational position for many technical exercises, including the handstand!
Level 1 dish hold
To hold a dish shape, squeeze your lower back and abdominals into the floor by rolling the front of your hips up towards your ribs and then pull your ribs down towards your hips like you’re trying to do an amazing ab crunch. This should bring your shoulders and tops of the shoulder blades off the ground. Point your toes, keep your heels very tightly squeezed together, and raise your feet about 15cm off the ground.
Keep as tightly squeezed as possible for the duration of the dish hold. Aim to hold for 30 seconds-1 minute. If the shoulderblades come back down on the ground, or if the lower back starts to curve off the ground, then stop and record the time for your hold.
Level 2 dish hold
To make the dish hold more difficult, hold the same position and take the arms overhead, so that your biceps are touching your ears. This effectively increases the lever length and makes it a very challenging core exercise indeed!
Repeat all exercises 3 time through
Once you’ve worked out your level and the time that you feel is challenging for you, run through each of these three exercises 3 times. Each week you might like to review either your level or the time you hold it for to challenge yourself and your core strength!
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