5 core-strengthening exercises: keep it simple for 100 days

Over the past couple of years, I’ve done a couple of different challenges, typically keeping them to thirty days maximum. Since the beginning of this year, I’ve meant to give myself a 100-day challenge, and I’ve finally started.

Today is day 3. It should be day 5, except I started, missed a day, and started over.

Of course, if I were at day 50, would I have started over? I’m not sure; I might have just continued counting!

Summer is over here – it’s raining almost daily. Tropical downpours. The humidity is through the roof, and I have little desire to clean my bike after riding in the rain!

I admit it: I don’t take cycling that seriously. I’m a fine-weather-only kind of girl!

cycling, bike riding, outdoors, ride your bike
cyclin

What is the bare minimum I will accept of myself in movement?

If I can’t get outside much to walk the dogs (more than taking them out for basic necessities) or enjoy a bike ride, what would I do inside?

I firmly believe in doing the minimum possible rather than maxing out my time and effort!

Given that I turn the big 5-0 this year, here’s the least I expect of myself until my birthday. Actually, from today, that ends up being September 1st, which is already past my birthday, but close enough.

As you can see, I’m all about core strength!

Why?

Because there’s nothing worse than lower back pain!

100 days, core-strengthening exercises, crunch punches, squats, plank, kickbacks, woodchoppers

Yes, I have a rebounder (mini-trampoline), jump rope, and an elliptical machine if I want to do more cardio, but I don’t always feel like making time for more.

I intentionally chose five exercises that I enjoy and that come with variations.

Woodchoppers:

If you’ve ever suffered from period pain, I can tell you that actually going out and chopping wood is a huge relief! It’s best done all month long, and not actually on the days when you have the pain!

Really chopping wood will give you a great workout:  

  • lower and upper back,
  • shoulders,
  • arms,
  • abs,
  • chest,
  • legs and
  • butt (glutes).

As if that’s not enough, it improves your hip and shoulder stability and strength. And who doesn’t want washboard abs?

Of course, chopping wood comes with some dangers. You can avoid these dangers just by mimicking the movement in exercise!

You can do this with or without weights. Here’s a short video introduction to the exercise:

How To Do A Dumbbell Woodchop | The Right Way | Well+Good

Of course, I prefer using my daughter’s baseball bat over dumbells (easier to grasp and swing)! You could even use a toddler’s plastic bat.

The minimum I do is 10 on each side.

More resources:

https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/wood-chop-exercise

Kickbacks or leg lifts:

Like most exercises, there are several explanations and variations of what this looks like. The one that I usually do is “high glute kickbacks” or “donkey kicks”, as you are on the floor mat and kicking back (and up), working your lower back and glutes.

Why do I focus on my glutes? Well, because I like to have a nice butt at 50!

Sorry… because it’s essential for your posture!

Stronger glute muscles = a more stable pelvis! This equates to better support for your knees and your lower back. This exercise also improves your balance and stability because you are moving while putting all the weight on one side of your body.

Here’s a short explanation of how to do this:

More resources:

Crunch punches:

I typically no longer do situps because of the risk of hurting myself. As a result, I focus on crunches.

Crunches are great because they work on your abs and your obliques (the sides), pelvis, lower back and hips. The primary benefit is strengthening your core and posture and burning some calories.

It’s another exercise that doesn’t require equipment, although you might choose to do them on a yoga mat, and you can add in dumbells to build great strength in your shoulders and forearms! You can even choose to do this on a balance ball!

Why add the punches? Because my upper body strength is nil. I need all the help I can get with my shoulders and arms!

Once again, I’m looking for fun, not just exercise. I enjoy crunch punches much more than just simple crunches! Once again, this exercise comes with many variations.

You can even do this in a chair if you don’t have the mobility to do full crunches on the ground!

Planks

As with every exercise I’ve listed, planks come with multiple variations. As easy or as complex as you can handle.

I keep to 40 seconds because I lose form at 50 seconds! And form is all that matters in planks if you want to reap the benefits. I might do repetitions of 40 seconds. But my bare minimum is one 40-second plank a day.

Some of the benefits you might get from planking, apart from core strength:

  • great for your arms, neck and shoulders
  • increased metabolism
  • bone health
  • helps reduce belly fat!
In case you can handle more!

More resources:

Squats:

Squats probably have the most variations of all the exercises I’ve mentioned. You can do them with or without weights, feet together or apart, split-legged, or even balanced on one leg rather than both.

For me, squats are essential because of the types of activities I enjoy outdoors with little miss 8! I want to always have the strength and stamina to enjoy hiking, cycling, paddleboarding and keeping up with her.

Having strong quads is vital for supporting your knees. But squats will also help strengthen:

  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • Hips
  • glutes
  • groin (abductors)
  • Obliques

Obviously, it also depends on which squats you do! You might choose to do your squats like the basic squat or a ballet plié, which will work different muscles!

If you want to see some variations, you might choose:

More resources:

Who cares about core strength?

I do, given that core strength helps me avoid other injuries!

More importantly, for me, is that it helps digestion. Yes, really! How you sit and stand impacts how the body can digest food. That’s really important for me. I want to give my digestive system all the support it can get.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/3-surprising-risks-of-poor-posture

Wellbeing is an inside job

On top of that, building core strength has a ton of other benefits!

  • Before you build strength in other muscles, you need a strong core;
  • Your core strength is crucial in any movement, whether exercise, in the office, at home or playing!
  • It’s essential for good running form (or walking)
  • Your organs are better protected
  • A strong core makes everyday life easier, as you are less prone to injury and pain.
  • Oh, look – it helps you age well!

More resources:

What’s your minimum movement?

Have you ever given yourself a minimum movement challenge? Most people jump on challenges to do the most. To stretch themselves.

This challenge for me is about consistency in doing the minimum. What do I want to have as a minimum routine on the days I want to do nothing?

Could I do more than what I’ve outlined? Yes. But I can’t guarantee that I could do that without any injury!

I don’t believe in exercise for sculpting my body or looking a particular way. I choose movement because I want to feel stronger and have more energy. There was a time when my minimum would have been a 2-mile run every day. My body isn’t there at the moment.

The challenge is always to start where you are: what can you commit to where you are right now? And keep your word to yourself without injury!

What could you commit to for 100 days?

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