Articles by natural health author Sarka-Jonae Miller
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Twist and Shout Core Workout
by Sárka-Jonae Miller
(The Best Years in Life) Add a fun twist on a traditional core workout with these twisty exercises. The core muscles do not only support the trunk and flex the spine, they also rotate your torso. These rotational movements are often skipped in regular workouts, leading to weak areas where you could get hurt performing simple actions, such as turning your body to set your groceries on the counter or twisting quickly to pass a ball. Shouting is optional.
Back Extensions with a Twist
Back extensions are a popular exercise because they are one of the easiest ways to strengthen the lower back. You can perform this exercise on a Swiss ball for a greater range of motion and core challenge, or lie face down on the floor. If you use a Swiss ball, you might want to hook your heels under a weight bench or place your feet against a wall for stability.
Begin lying face down with your legs straight or bent slightly if lying on a ball. Bend your arms and place your fingertips behind your ears. Do not pull on your neck. Raise your upper body as high as you can without hyperextending your spine. At the top of motion, pause for second to work your muscles isometrically. Also, do not look upwards or you risk hyperextending your neck. Then, twist first to the left and then to the right before returning to center.
Lower yourself back to the starting position to complete one repetition. Depending upon the strength of your lower back, begin with five to 10 repetitions and see how you feel before working up to three sets of 10 to 15 reps.
The bicycle crunch is one of the most effective exercises for working the entire length of the abdominals and obliques. It takes a little coordination to get the twist right but you should tell right away if you are doing it backwards.
Begin lying face up with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart on the floor. Place your fingertips behind your ears like with the back extensions. Then, lift your feet off the floor and position your legs so that your knees make right angles and your shins are parallel to the floor. Raise your head and shoulders off the ground into a crunch. This is the starting position.
Without lying back down, twist your shoulders to the right and extend your left leg. Next, twist to the left, bend your left leg in toward your chest, and straighten your right leg. It helps some people to imagine their legs are peddling in the air. Keep your lower back flat and your abs tight throughout. Count each twist as a rep and perform 10 to 20. Three sets is ideal.
The dumbbell chop exercise emphasizes the lower abdominals and obliques. Hold one dumbbell with both hands as if it's a hammer but let your arms hang straight toward the floor. Bend your knees into a small squat. Start by bringing the dumbbell on your right side. Then, lift the weight up and diagonally overhead until the dumbbell is above your left shoulder. Stand up straight as you do this and rotate your shoulders slightly to the left. Bring the dumbbell back down as you lower into a squat again. Do 10 reps on this side, changing out the weight if it's too heavy to complete 10 reps. Repeat on the other side for the same number of reps. Perform two to three sets.
Since this workout is all for the core, you can break it up into one or two exercises that you use along with your strength training workouts or perform the whole thing in order as its own routine. Due to the amount of rotation, do not perform these exercise if you have back problems or without checking with your doctor.
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About the Author
Sárka-Jonae Miller is a health and fitness expert. She began working in the fitness industry in 2000 while pursuing a BS in journalism at Syracuse University. She became certified as a personal fitness trainer and group exercise instructor in 2003. She has also received training in massage therapy. Sárka also writes fiction. She is the author of the chick lit novel, Between Boyfriends. Get more health and wellness tips on Sárka's Natural Healing Tips blog or join her on Facebook and Twitter.