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When you’re trying to improve your strength and endurance, there are few areas of the body that should demand more attention than your core. These crucial lower abdominal and back muscles play a pivotal role in ensuring that your spine is aligned properly, which affects the functioning of every system in the body. If you were to buy the gym hype that has been circulating for the better part of the past 50 years, you might be tricked into believing that you need a bunch of fancy machines and dozens of different exercises to strengthen your core and the rest of your body.
While studying for my master in public health online at the University of Southern California, I learned that calisthenics are actually often more effective and safer than their weight training counterparts. With that said, here are five exercises that my mph degree online taught me will strengthen your core and improve your all around physical appearance.
1. Jumping Jacks
Jumping jacks have been used by the military as a primary drill exercise for a reason – they are great for building your cardiovascular system without placing excessive pressure on your joints. They work every muscle group in the body simultaneously and even aid with strengthening balance and hand-eye coordination.
2. Push Ups
You might think of push ups as a chest exercise, but in reality they work your core muscles because you need your abdomen and back to support your mid-section while you’re moving up and down. Like jumping jacks, there are different types of push ups that emphasize different muscle groups, but overall they are all full body workouts.
3. Sit Ups
Sit ups are like the king of core exercises, with at least a dozen different variations that you can use to focus on different areas of the abs and core. However, it’s very important to be careful and not overdo your sit up or ab crunching regimen, as this particular kind of movement can be very taxing on your core, so you need adequate time to heal and rejuvenate between sessions.
Dips work your back and chest muscles, but incorporating leg movements and holds into your motions will also provide an excellent workout for your core. This is also an exercise that is very gentle on the tendons and can be done in high reps everyday without causing overexertion.
5. Lunges and Squats
Finally, leg exercises strengthen the bottom half of your core, because, as you know, all the muscles are connected via the musculoskeletal system. It’s important to use slow and steady motions when doing these exercises, and don’t overdo it, as you can cause or exacerbate some rather serious knee injuries if proper form and technique is not used.
Walk More than You Run
Building endurance is a lot like the story of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady will always win the race in this regard, and while it might seem that sprinting would be a more effective training exercise than jogging or walking, it’s actually true that walking places the least pressure on your tendons and joints due to slower speed sand more aerodynamic motions, and is therefore the healthiest form of cardiovascular activity.