Headline Health – We’re teaming up with fitness coach Marla Altberg to bring you a fun, do-anywhere routine to improve your fitness and keep the New Year’s promise you made to yourself.
Marla’s quick 15-minute routine will get you stretched, strengthened and well on your way to a firmer core—essential for maintaining your balance, flexibility, and independence.
Marla designed this quick workout to be safe to do on a daily basis, so kick off your year with a healthy routine. There are 12 exercises in all, so you’ll only need to spend about one minute on each one.
15 Minutes to a Firmer Core
Marla Altberg – Which is the most common New Year’s Resolution—getting more exercise or eating healthier?
Drum roll, please…..IT’S A TIE (Statista poll, December 2017).
Now let’s get started by doing the single best exercise to keep your New Year’s resolution—
Get up. You heard me, get up off the couch or out of the chair. Now sit down.
No, I did not change my mind. Keep getting up and sitting down, holding your core firm for as many reps as you can. Congrats on starting your warm-up!
(As with any exercise program, make sure your physician clears you for exercise, wear comfortable clothing and safe athletic shoes. You’ll need a cushioned exercise mat for the floor exercises and if available, a playground ball or rolled-up towel.)
Now let’s keep going….
- Side pulse—start with your feet hip-width apart.
- Put your right hand on your hip and your left hand reaching high over your head.
- Slightly bend your knees, and tilt your pelvis forward.
- Now gently pulse toward the left; starting with at least 25 reps, then working up to 50 or even 100.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Elbow to opposite knee—raising both arms high over your head bring one knee up in a standing crunch as you bring your hands down trying to reach the opposite elbow to that knee.
- Alternate this marching and twisting motion for a good pace at least 10 on each side
- Work up to more reps as you feel stronger.
- Single-sided elbow to knee—as a variation on this theme we can further work our obliques by putting your left hand on your hip and your right hand behind your head.
- Turn your right foot out to the right to open up the hip.
- Now raise your right knee at the same time you lower your right elbow toward that knee in a side crunch.
- Good job! Do at least 10 if you can… or more… then repeat on the left side.
Moving on to the mat…
- Bird dog reach with core activation—start kneeling on all fours with the wrists lined up under the shoulders; knees under the hips.
- Holding your abs in and up, reach your left arm out extending the fingers as far as you can as though you are trying to touch the other side of the room.
- Raise your right leg straight out behind you with foot flexed toes pointing to the ground, again reaching out the heel as though you were standing on the opposite wall.
- Take a few breaths in this position then pulse the left arm and right leg straight up for five counts.
- Next, crunch the left arm with bent elbow under the body to meet the right leg with bent knee. That is, you are doing an oblique crunch underneath. Repeat five times.
- Do the whole three-part routine on the other side.
- Down dog/plank—begin in the same starting position on all fours as you did in the last exercise.
- Extend one leg back and then the other, holding your abs in and up, raise the middle of your torso toward the sky.
- Enjoy a nice stretch here by gently bending one knee and then the other a few times.
- Re-engage those abs and lower your torso toward the floor (but not all the way!) into a nice firm, even-keeled plank. Hold for a count of five; repeat this up and down motion five to ten times.
- Take a moment to rest back into a child’s pose before moving on to the next exercise.
- Plank series—return to the plank positioned you just practiced in the above exercise, or if you want to give your wrists a break, come down on to your forearms. Don’t worry, you’re still working that core.
- Now step your right leg out to the side and bring it back to the home base.
- Next lift the right leg straight up in the air with your foot pointing toward the ground; return to home base. As the last variation bend the right knee out to the side crunching it up toward the right elbow.
- Repeat this series on the left. Take quick rest and see if you are up to a second set, maybe a third?
Three more on the mat…
- Side plank pulse—sorry, yet another plank, but they really work! Lying on your right side prop yourself up onto your right forearm with the elbow lined up directly under the shoulder.
- You can use your left hand for support on the floor in front of you, or for an extra challenge raise it high in the sky.
- Lift your torso up into a side plank and raise and lower your right hip toward the floor for five to 10 repetitions.
- Take a breather and switch sides.
- Crunch series—lie on your back and bring your knees into your chest. Give yourself a little hug—you deserve it, and you’re almost done.
- Now move the knees out a bit into a table-top position with the knees lined up directly over the hips, legs squeezed together, shins parallel to the floor.
- Hands go behind your head with your thumbs running down your neck for extra support. Raise head, neck, and shoulders up off the mat making sure there is enough space under your chin so that you could hold an orange there.
- Repeat this crunch for 10 times.
- If you have a playground ball or rolled-up towel handy, do the next set by squeezing it between your inner thighs. Do the next set by bringing your knees further in toward your chest as you crunch up too, in effect, result in a double crunch.
- Your last set returns your feet to the floor to start out, then tilt both bent knees so they lie on the right side of the mat, crunch ten times, flip the knees over the left and crunch ten more.
- Congratulations—50 crunches before you even knew it!
- Single leg bridge—you’re almost done, and this exercise doubles as a stretch so don’t sweat it. Start lying on your back, feet on the floor with knees bent and stuck together with the superglue of your muscles.
- Raise your right foot straight out like an arrow.
- Now lift your body weight up off the mat by anchoring your left foot into the mat, pushing the hips up into a bridge position.
- Lower and lift five to seven times; take a breather and repeat on the other side.
You made it! That wasn’t so hard, was it? Each time your core will get stronger; you’ll be able to push yourself into more reps or even doing the whole routine twice. But first, it’s time to ….
Relax and cool down:
- Wheel—reminiscent of the bridge exercise above, this time your feet are hip-width apart or a little wider.
- Use both feet pushing into the floor to lift your hips up into the highest bridge you can muster at this stage of the game.
- If you don’t have any issues with your shoulders you can get a more extensive stretch by rolling your shoulders under your body clasping your hands on the mat, pushing up just a little bit farther.
- This stretch benefits your upper body as well, deflecting all the forward flexion we do daily when hunched over our laptops and cell phones.
- Twisting stretch—return to the starting position of lying on the mat with feet on the floor and knees bent.
- This time legs are glued together.
- Drop both knees to one side while you twist your torso in to look in the opposite direction.
- Breathe, relax, switch sides.
- Child’s pose—this stretch starts with you down on all fours, i.e., hands supporting you under your shoulders, knees lined up under the hips.
- Widen the expanse of the knees; angle your feet inward so the heels are almost touching, toes pointed out.
- Push your torso back toward your heels so your bottom eventually rests there. Stretch your arms as far forward as you can pushing your hands into the mat to give your spine nice length. Breathe!
- Now your hands over to right side of the mat to stretch out your side, pause, walk hands back to the center and then over to the left.
You are now stretched, strengthened and well on your way to a firmer core! This quick workout is safe to do on a daily basis, so kick off your year with a healthy routine.
Written by Marla Altberg—Have Fun with Fitness, New York, NY (CREDENTIALS: Athleta Flatiron Studio Community Instructor, Certified Personal Trainer, Senior Strength, Conditioning & Flexibility, Power Pilates Mat, YogaFit Level One. Email your questions to: [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MarlaPilates.)