Although cardio routines often focus on quick, intense movements, it is possible to get the blood pumping with a series of precision movements instead. This is especially true if those movements activate a large number of muscles, such as those found in the core, at the same time. Furthermore, performing core targeting exercises will help you gain strength and stamina to enable you to complete higher intensity sessions in the future. A strong core will even improve your posture, balance and flexibility. Here are four exercises to get you started.
Flutter kicks are an easy way to get used to the process of activating your core muscles. At first glance, this exercise seems far too simple. In practice, however, it feels incredibly demanding on the muscles across your abdomen. To perform this move, lie flat on your back with your palms on the ground. Slightly bend your knees and lift your legs off the ground. Make sure to alternate short, controlled upward kicks while keeping your core muscles tight.
You may be familiar with L sits from watching gymnasts perform this simple move on the rings. Since you need an immense amount of core stability to pull that off, it’s best to start practicing this exercise on the floor. Simply place your hands, palm down, at your hips, and use them for support as you activate your core and lift your body weight off the ground. You can adjust the intensity by leaning forward more and lifting your feet a bit higher.
Using a stability ball to complete crunches allows you to maximize the efficiency of your workout and scale difficulty to your current abilities. You want to start with the ball aligned between your lower back and shoulder blades. Keep your knees bent and feet flat on a non-skid floor. Push out your core muscles before using them to pull yourself into a full sitting position. You can adjust the difficulty by moving the ball farther toward your glutes to rely on the strength of your abdomen even more.
The sheer difficulty of this exercise means not everyone can complete even one rep at first. Dragon flags are the act of pulling your entire body off the mat or bench while keeping your shoulders pinned. Slowly build your strength until you can pull your legs and torso up off the bench or floor. Once you can complete one flag, you will want to work on extending your body higher and higher into the air.
You can measure the strength of your core muscles by paying attention to the number of reps you can complete without feeling fatigued. Start at a low number of reps, or short time limit, to avoid straining your muscles or joints, as these exercises are quite demanding. A good number to start with is five sets of five reps or thirty second bursts. Of course, you can move that number up or down depending on your heart rate and muscle fatigue status.