Most exercisers don't realize the importance of a good core routine. Many feel that crunches or sit-ups are enough of a workout for their core, but the truth is that your core needs more than that. A few key pieces of equipment can help tone your entire core, and all of them can be purchased and used at home, so there is no need to belong to a gym.
Stability balls, which look like giant bouncy balls, are an affordable piece of home equipment that can be utilized in a variety of different ways to challenge and shape your body. The reason they're so great for your core is that the ball requires you to maintain your balance while you're on it and doing your exercise, meaning that your core will be constantly engaged to keep you from falling off. Use the stability ball to amp up boring crunches or get creative with exercises like the stability-ball pike. To perform a stability-ball crunch, sit on a stability ball and slowly walk your legs out in front until you are lying on the ball on your back with your shoulders and head hanging off and knees bent. Your feet should be firmly planted on the ground and your core tight to keep yourself balanced. Place your hands behind your head and slowly flex your waist to raise your head and shoulders up. Return to starting position. Perform three sets of 10 crunches.
Weighted Exercise Ball
A weighted exercise ball, or medicine ball, is a ball that comes in a variety of weights. Most medicine balls are the size of a basketball or soccer ball and can range in weight from five pounds to twenty-five pounds. Using a medicine ball instead of a dumbbell or weight plate makes for a better grip during exercises and is easier to hold. These balls can be used in exercises like the weighted-Russian twist. To perform the weighted-Russian twist, sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Hold a medicine ball in your hands with your arms fully extended in front of your chest. Lower backwards so that your body now forms a V shape, with your knees still bent and your arms straight. Slowly twist to the right side until your arms are parallel to the floor. Twist back to the center. Perform three sets of 10 twists on each side.
Gliding is a workout performed on two Frisbee-like discs. These discs can be used in a variety of ways to give your entire body a workout. One disc exercise that focuses primarily on your abdominals is the mountain-climber exercise. To do mountain climbers, use the discs on your feet. Get in push-up position with a gliding disk under each foot. Keeping your body straight, slowly slide your right foot up to your right hand and then back to the starting position. Switch sides and repeat with the left leg. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions on each leg. Sliding your feet back and forth instead of stepping them like in a traditional mountain climber exercise puts a greater focus on your core. In fact, the discs require you to use your core to stabilize yourself, so almost every exercise done with the gliding discs targets the core.
A half-dome ball is basically a stability ball that has been cut in half. One half of the ball is a flat side with a hard plastic base, while the other side is half of a stability ball. This ball also focuses primarily on balance. Performing standard exercises, like the squat, while balancing on a half-dome ball, brings the focus more to your abdominals while still keeping all the other lower-body benefits. To perform a squat, stand on the ball part of the half-dome ball with the flat side on the floor. Place your feet as wide as you comfortably can on the ball. You will most likely not achieve shoulder width due to the size of the ball. Once balanced, raise your arms out in front of you to help you stabilize yourself and slowly bend your legs to lower into a squat. Once your thighs are at least parallel to the ground, slowly push yourself back up until your legs are straight. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions.
Kaitlin Condon is a holistic health coach and certified physical fitness/wellness specialist. She is a contributing health writer for the teen magazine "Miabella," as well as several online publications.