PHYSICAL – Let’s focus on our core this week. Here are a couple of circuits to incorporate into your exercise routine. Here are a couple of ab circuits to give you some ideas.
Janet’s Plank Circuit
Plank Circuit #1: Warm up first (of course).
Learn the plank stretch position before you start. It’s also the position known as “child’s pose” in yoga. Here is an explanation: lie on your stomach, & then push back your gluteals (that’s your butt) to your heels. Hands & arms are straight in front of the body, such that elbows are near the temples. Palms down on the floor. Forehead down to the floor, chin somewhat ducked toward chest. Round your lower back. Feel the spinal vertebrae separate & round, really stretching through the back, particularly lower back. Now you are ready to get started.
Stay in prone position (that means with face to floor, back to ceiling). Walk your hands & chest out until you are resting solely on your elbows, forearms, & sides of palms. Head should be straight out from spine, eyes cast down or you may slowly turn your head side to see your reflection in the mirror & check your form. Your knees are not touching the floor, so that your toes are your only other body part touching the floor.
At this point, only the following body parts are touching the floor: elbows, forearms, & sides of palms, & toes. Your back AND buttocks (we’ll use the pc word) must be straight & even – like an ironing board. Do not let your buttocks lift – you do not want your buttocks to be high – hips should be level with rib cage – NOT higher. So be sure your back, buttocks, & legs are on the same even plane.
Now you are ready. KEY – if at any time you tire, your back hurts, or your buttocks start lifting up (thus lifting the hips, losing that ironing board effect), immediately go into the stretch pose described above. Stretch as often as you must, then go right back & finish the circuit. Soon you will be able to do it in its entirety without stretching until the end.
In the plank position, contract your lower back. Contract the abdominals, pulling the belly button up to the spine. Contract the gluteals (butt). You must hold these contractions the entire time you are in the plank position – through all the plank moves. You can only release during the stretch.
Start by just holding the position with lower back, abs, & buttocks contracted. Hold 16 counts.
Next lower & lift your knees (to the floor & then back level with body), Right then Left. As you lower, move the knee slightly inward to also engage the sides of your waist (the obliques). Do 16 of these (that means 16 on each side – 1 rep is R then L).
Next lift & lower your leg, R then left – toes will come off the floor, then go back into position on the floor. It’s a small lift, so that as you lift you further contract the gluteal of the leg you are lifting, further contract the lower back, & feel the abs flatten even more (the lift slightly stretches the abs – keep belly button to spine & feel this lengthening of the abs). Do these 8 times at an even tempo (that means R then L is one time). Once you have lifted & lowered each leg alternating 8 times, we are gonna intensify.
Lift the Right leg & hold 7 counts. Lower R toe back to the floor on count 8.
Lift the L leg & hold 7 counts. Lower L toe to floor on count 8.
Repeat 2 more times.
Now it’s back to the knee drops, (lower then lift as described above). Feel the obliques again. Continue contracting the abs, lower back, & gluteals. Do 8 reps (8 R/L).
Now stretch as described above. Really feel the lower back rounding. Separate the spine. This should feel great. Hold this stretch as long as you want, but not so long that you stop feeling it. Now flip your body over to a supine position, keeping spine rounded even as you flip.
Once in supine position, you want your feet on floor with knees up (bent). Keep your spine rounded into the floor. Continue to feel the stretch. Take a pelvic tuck – it will help to keep the spine rounded into the floor. Pelvic tuck means lifting the buttocks off the floor, lifting the hip bones, & pulling the stomach in. Again, belly button all the way to spine. You should feel as though you are lying flat on your back with your stomach concave. Like a U-shaped torso flat on the floor. Holding this position, take hands behind head, resting head on fingers (not laced). Elbows stay to the side. Eyes to ceiling, chin lifted so that you could hold an orange between chin & chest. Now lift & lower the shoulders, being sure to hold your pelvic tuck & spine to floor. Do NOT allow your abs to round up – keep them sucked in. Now you can do some standard ab moves if you want, & by holding this correct position, you will be amazed at your results. Try to do between 25 & 50 regular ab crunches…challenge yourself!!!
Janet’s Plank Circuit 2 – We will do planks facing side now.
Start from your original plank position (prone portion of Plank Circuit 1).
Carefully turn your body on its Right side so you are supported by your right hand (Right elbow is straight). Left foot is crossed over right foot on floor. Now LIFT your hips up – get them high & aligned with the body so that the only body parts touching the floor re your Right hand & Left foot crossed over Right foot (so toes are pointed to floor & heels also are on floor). Make sure the right arm is directly in line with the shoulder, so shoulder is straight above wrist. Think about your torso. Is your belly button contracted to the spine? Is your back contracted? The sides of your waist? All of these areas must be pulled inward – visualize a corset wrapped around your waist, oblique’s (sides of waist) & lower back, & pull the corset tight. Keep your chest & shoulders lifted.
Extend the left arm in the air & look up at your hand. Hold this for 3 counts, then on count 4 lower the left arm to floor. If you are tired, rest hips on floor & then lift back up. Repeat 8 times.
Next, take L hand behind head & Left elbow is pointed upward. Same body alignment. Keeping shoulders squared, turn L elbow down so that it turns to floor (of course, it will not touch the floor – just point downward. Your face also turns to floor, so that your eyes are looking directly at floor. Do this 8 times.
Repeat on other side.
I try to do planks 4 days a week, even if I do no other workout that day.
Janet’s Plank Circuit 3
While in prone position (face looking at floor, body on toes, back flat & LEVEL – no butt lifting):
Extend/straighten your elbows so that your arms are straight & wrists are at floor — DIRECTLY below shoulders. Extend Right leg straight out from hip (horizontal to floor). Squeeze lower back, buttocks, & really tighten your abdominals…PULL YOUR Belly Button in to Spine as tight as you can. Now extend Left arm straight out from floor – again, horizontal. Squeeze lower back & further tighten belly button. Hold 7 counts.
Change sides — i.e. Use Left leg & Right arm, & Repeat as above.
Do each side 8 times, then stretch by sitting your buttocks back to heels, round lower back, arms extended & palms on floor, forehead on floor.
Once you have stretched lower back, round up (keep buttocks on heels) until spine is erect. Roll shoulders back & then down. Now clasp hands behind back & pinch shoulder blades together, lean head back to look at ceiling. KEEP ABS CONTRACTED! This opens your chest & you can really feel the chest stretching – important to keep flexibility & good posture through your shoulders/chest.
Janet’s Plank Circuit 4
Walking Planks — Same position as above, i.e. hands aligned under shoulders, elbows straight, toes on floor, back flat like ironing board. For this one, however, you should put a towel under the toes to assist your “walk”. Keep belly button pulled in to spine; Keep lower back & sides of waist contracted.
Now slowly walk hands forward – as though you are taking six steps, & use your toes to drag the towel with you as your hands walk.
You probably will want to stretch (see paragraphs below) after your hands walk six steps, then you should do it again. Stretch once more & do these walks a third time. Once you have mastered this one, try to increase the number of steps your hands walk – increase to eight for 3 sets, then later possibly ten steps & 3 sets.
Stretch – just as above – to repeat: stretch by sitting your buttocks back to heels, round lower back, arms extended & palms on floor, forehead on floor.
Once you have stretched lower back, round up (keep buttocks on heels) until spine is erect. Roll shoulders back & then down. Now clasp hands behind back & pinch shoulder baldes together, lean head back to look at ceiling. KEEP ABS CONTRACTED! This opens your chest & you can really feel the chest stretching – important to keep flexibility & good posture through your shoulders/chest.
Suzannes’s Fab Abs Routines
The first routine is mostly standing, uses a stick & focuses on the obliques. The second routine is on the floor & is a good mix of upper, lower & obliques. Before both workouts, please make sure you’re warmed up. Either add these on to the end of one of your workouts, or you can do these as stand alone workouts & get warm using your favorite warmup routine.
Ab Routine One
1. Seated leg extensions 16 reps
This exercise will warm up the entire ab region.
Start seated on a chair with knees up & hands on the back corners. (beginners just 1 knee up for 8 & switch)
Extend the legs & exhale. Pull back in & inhale. Advanced exercisers will lay out almost flat as they extend legs & torso.
2. Standing oblique twist 8 basic 16 with knee
With stick on shoulders, twist at the waist to the R keeping hips forward. Next add a R knee lift crossing the knee to the mid-line of the body.
3. Standing oblique lift 16 reps
Lower torso to the L, elbow pointed to the floor shoulders facing front & then pull your body back up to neutral using the R obliques. This is a stretch, followed by a contraction to return to the starting position.
4. Standing oblique crunch 16 reps
Take 2 pound weights into both hands & lift arms overhead to the L. Extend your R leg, toe pointed & touching the ground. Pull your arms down & across your body as you lift your R knee (like a knee repeater).
5. Standing Ab Crunch 16 reps
Keep the twigs in both hands centered overhead with elbow slightly bent. Alternate knee lifts while crunching upper abs toward the knee. Basically, crunch yourself into a C-shape.
Repeat Exercise 2-4 on the L
Repeat exercise 1 & 5.
Finish with a set of planks. Hold for 16 counts, can alternate knee walks or leg lifts. Do 3 sets.
Beginners should not use weights.
Ab Routine Two
Begin in supine position. Hands can either be behind your head, flat by your side, under your hips, or behind you holding on to a table or sofa leg.
Beginners should keep all leg extensions & leg walks shallow. Advanced should extend & lower legs as deep as possible without lifting the back.
1. Leg Walks 16
Start with legs fully extended over hips. Lower legs together (can modify with alternating legs) & lift.
2. Leg Extensions16 or Leg Extensions with scissor 16
Extend legs out together & bring them back in with knees stopping over hips. Do not add a reverse crunch to the move. Advanced, extend legs & add an open-close scissor & then bring legs back in.
3. Reverse Leg Walks 16 reps
Extend legs out & walk up together slowly.
4. Flutter 10 reps
Extend legs at your level, keeping legs very tight & controlled. Flutter quickly.
5. Oblique Crunch 8 reps; with knees 12 reps
Bring feet to the floor & drop knees to the L. Both hands behind head, shoulders square to ceiling & do upper crunch. Then extend R arm, palm to floor for leverage, & add bent legs to crunch.
6. Upper Ab Crunch 16
Feet on floor, knees center, crunch upper abs.
Repeat exercise 5 to the other side.
Repeat exercise 6.
7. Upper Crunch with twist 8 reps R/L; 8 reps L/R
Feet flat on floor, hands behind head. Crunch center, twist R, twist L & lower. Do 8 & repeat twisting L then R.
8. Side planks 2 sets each side
Get into plank position & lower & lift 10 times, advanced can add rotation to the front.
Please modify this as you need to. You may have to build up to some of these exercise or to the amount of reps.
These are all just some options to get you started. It is always good to get out of the normal exercises. If you always to crunches, try some planks or leg walks. If you always to abs on the floor, try doing them on a stability ball. If you have a favorite ab exercise you would like to share, let me know! I love learning new exercises.