No, we're not talking about eating apples. Strengthening your abdominal muscles doesn't need to be a chore.
Tired of trying to beat your high plank PB day in, day out? Here are my 5 favourite core strengthening exercises to help maintain correct posture, reduce strain on your spine, allow you to move in different directions with ease, and stay steady on uneven surfaces.
Dolphin Pose to Dolphin Plank. Repeat. In Dolphin Plank your shoulders are directly over the elbows and your torso is parallel to the floor. Tuck the tailbone slightly to stimulate core engagement. Firm your shoulder blades against your back and spread them away from the spine.
You can also add Dolphin Hip Dips straight into Dolphin Plank Rocks to the above sequence or practise standalone. In Dolphin Plank, check that your feet are hip width apart to give your heels space to drop to the mat when you dip you hips to one side to activate the obliques. A Plank Rock is all in the balls of your feet. In Dolphin Plank, bring the entire ball of your foot on the mat as you push back into your heels. To rock forward, push forward onto your toes as your chest moves over your hands; spine remains parallel to the mat. As soon as the hips lift, the core engagement is lost. So remember to keep your hips in line with your shoulders.
If you follow the Activ Life on Instagram (@theactivlife) you will know that we like to post challenges like the 'Bear Pounce Challenge'. Another firm abdominal favourite, this exercise starts in a Bear Hover - start in table top, drop your elbows to the mat, tuck your toes and hover your knees off the mat. Push into the balls of your feet and your palms as you float both elbows off the earth at the same time into High Plank.
The 'Downward Dog Dolphin Challenge' is another popular exercise we recently posted on our social media. Start in Downward Facing Dog, roll forward into a High Plank, and begin to shimmy your feet back slightly so that your hands move forward of your shoulders. This will give you room to lower your elbows onto the mat into Dolphin Plank. Begin to walk your toes forward as your hips raise into Dolphin. Push into your palms and I challenge you to lift your elbows together, back to where you started in Downward Dog.
Finally, the most fun of them all! The 'Downward Dog Hop Challenge' starts in a Standing Split. Let's say where standing on our right leg; the left leg is raised into the air. Bend into the right knee, place your palms onto the mat, engage the core to keep your hips in the air for as long as you can while hopping your right foot to the back of your mat (all while keeping your left leg in the air) so you end up in a Three-Legged Down Dog. From here you can roll forward into a Three-Legged High Plank and move through a Chaturanga transition.
For all of our regular Activ Life yogis, you will have definitely practiced one, two or all five of the above variations in our classes. For those who haven't, follow @theactivlife on Instagram and Facebook for step-by-step videos on how to move in and out of the above the transitions to spice up any yoga flow.
Louise FitzRoy is the Principal of Activ Life, a leading health and wellness company based in the Cayman Islands. If you enjoyed this article you may also like: Turn your yoga class into a cardio workout and Can yoga tone my body?