Former World Ironman champion Guy Leech has shared his top tips on how to strengthen and shred your core – sans the serious gym equipment. According to Leech, the much talked about “core” encompasses the entire, complex series of muscles that extend far beyond just the abs, this muscle group works to stabilise and support your body.
“While core strength is essential to correctly perform all sorts of strength training exercises, it is also very important when carrying out simple day-to-day activities and maintaining good posture and balance. A strong core can also help reduce the risk of back pain and injuries,” he says.
And these are Leech’s go-to exercises to get a killer core at home:
1. The plank
“The plank works the entire core including the upper and lower body muscles all at once,” Leech said. Simply lie down on your stomach, and then lift your body off the floor with your forearms and toes, while keeping your elbows at 90 degrees. Try to keep your body straight without arching your back. Leech explains that “the longer you can hold a plank, the stronger you will get, and the more resilient your lower back will be to injuries.”
2. V-sit hold
“This exercise is great as it not only works to strengthen the core, but also helps drastically improve balance,” Leech said. Start on your back, and then bend your legs and back up at the waist as you extend your legs and arms off the ground into the air to form a ‘V’. Hold this position for as long as you can. “For a slightly more advanced version, drop your legs closer to the ground and hold your feet a few centimetres off the floor for a few seconds, before releasing.”
3. Twisting crunch
As one of the most effective crunch workouts, the twisting crunch will target all your stomach muscles in one simple movement. Just assume a standard crunch position, and then raise your torso to a 45 degree angle from the floor, and then twist from side to side, each time driving the opposite elbow to the opposite knee. For an extra challenge, Leech suggests, “Try extending your legs and pretending to peddle a bicycle as you continue to twist.”
4. Ball roll-ins
Ball roll-ins are great to target the central and lower abdominal muscles. Start with your hands on the ground and the tops of your feet on the top of a large exercise ball. Keep your hands in place and bend at the knees to bring the ball up toward your chest. Hold this position for a second and slowly roll the ball back out. “With this one, it’s important to focus on squeezing your abs throughout the movement and avoid just using your hip flexors to pull the ball in,” Leech said.
5. Work in short bursts
The final tip, which can be applied to any kind of core exercise, is to execute every part of the movement ‘explosively’. Scientists have shown that performing abdominal exercises at a fast tempo activates more muscle than doing them slowly. “This is most likely because in order to speed your movements, your muscles are required to generate higher amounts of force,” Leech explains.