As we move into the third month of the year, how are you getting on with your training?

Most people focus on cardio and resistance training, forgetting about their core.

You use your core in most movements. Having a strong core will improve your posture and also your ability to run, jump, swim and cycle. Being able to transfer force from the upper to the lower body, and vice versa, comes from having good core strength. Training this will give you a tighter and chiseled waistline too.

This article will give you some top tips and exercises on how you can strengthen your core. Check out my favourite core exercises below.

Up, Up, Down, Down Plank
This exercise works your triceps (found on the back of the arm) and also your core. Start on your elbows in the plank position. Then push one elbow into the floor and lift the other hand to extend the arm. Do this for the other side too so that you are in a hover position with arms extended. Then lower one hand to the floor and do this on the other side too. This exercise sounds easy but will test your upper body and core strength. The aim is to keep your hips still and to control the rotation to a minimum as you move up and down with the arms. Do this for 10 reps or as many times as you can in 30 seconds.

Straight Leg Oblique Kick
Lie on your side so you have one elbow on the ground and one side of your bum on the floor. Bend both legs together so they come up to your chest. Then extend both legs to a straight position. This counts as one rep. Try to squeeze your obliques on the side of your body throughout the movement and brace your abs. Keeping the abdominals under tension will help you get the most out of this exercise. Do 10-15 reps on one side then change to do the other side.

Walking Glute Bridge
You should always focus on the back of the body not only the front. The posterior chain can help even out imbalances and improve posture. Lie on the floor, looking up at the ceiling and bend both legs. Lift your hips up and squeeze your bum so there is a muscle contraction on the hamstrings and glutes. From here, keeping the hips raised, walk one leg forward followed by the other leg. Then walk back in one by one. Repeat this for 10 reps or 30 seconds. Aim to keep your hips raised so there is a diagonal line from your knee, to your hip, to your shoulder.

Raise Pike
An exercise that really targets the centre of the core. Place your feet on top of the rower seat and put both hands either side of the rower so you are in a push up position. From here, keep the legs straight and use your stomach muscles to lift your hips to the ceiling whilst keeping your legs straight. You need to lift from your abdominals so that you feel the muscles working deep inside your core. Lower the hips in a controlled manner and repeat this movement for 10 reps or for 30 seconds.

Plank on Medicine Ball
Balance yourself on top of a medicine ball. You have three options for this exercise. Option 1 is to have arms straight and feet balancing on the ball. Option 2 is to have feet on the floor and arms balancing on the ball. Option 3 is the most advanced where you have both hands and feet balancing on the ball. Throughout this movement, brace your core and keep your back straight. Try to hold your balance as best you can and focus on keeping the body as still as possible. Aim to do this for 30 seconds, building up to 45 seconds.

By following these five core exercises, I am sure you will start to see and feel the difference. Your stomach muscles will get stronger and you will be well on your way to having better posture, which will reduce back pain and improve flexibility. I would look to incorporate these into your training program 2-3 times a week. Start with Exercise 1 and work your way through to Exercise 5. Here’s to a strong core!

Nicky Holland
Fitness Manager, Fitness First Uptown Mirdif

Words by: Nicky Holland
Photos by: Jung Francisco