Lack of time is the most common barrier to exercise for many people. However, to save yourself travel time, at home workouts are a fantastic opportunity to squeeze in some exercise at your convenience. Due to sedentary lifestyles causing weakness to the core muscles, the need for core strength is of high importance and so please see below for 5 great core exercises that can be achieved at home with minimal equipment.
If performed currently, the plank can help relieve back pain and improve posture. The most effective plank technique is to start from a lying position with your stomach touching the ground, put your feet and knees together and balance your weight onto your toes. Then place your hands directly underneath your shoulders and fully extend your arms. What is very commonly missed but highly recommended within yoga is to internally rotate your hips to release tension from your back and to increase the engagement of the core muscles. Then hold the exercise for a minimum of 30 seconds to get the full benefit.
Heel taps help to engage the obliques. Whilst lying with your back touching the ground, bend your knees and pull your feet so that they are flat on the floor and as close to the body as you need (the closer to the glutes, the easier the exercise). Slightly raise your head off the ground and externally rotate so that your hands tap the back of your heel. For those that feel neck pain when performing this exercise, with your free hand, support your head. Ensure to repeat multiple repetitions of this exercise on both sides.
Whilst lying with your back touching the ground and knees bent and feet flat on the floor, place your hands behind your head (or some people prefer to cross them over the chest). Before starting the movement ensure a neutral spine (this essentially means no arch in the spine). Once in position, lift your shoulders approximately 2 inches off the ground and continuously pulse up and down whilst remaining slow and controlled.
Progression: elevate and cross the legs and/or twist the shoulders as you lift
A further exercise to engage the obliques are the russian twists which have many variations. The basic techniques requires you to sit with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. Slightly recline backwards so that your torso and thighs form a V-shape. Once in position, begin to rotate your arms from the outside of the left hip to the outside of the right hip in an upside down U shape whilst ensuring you pause at the lowest part of the U for the optimal benefit.
Progression: lower the back further and/or lift your feet off the ground and/or hold a weight of some description (even a heavy water bottle could do the job depending on your ability level).
To help target the lower core, the reverse crunch is fantastic. Lie flat on your back (to help set up the neutral spine position, placing your hands underneath your glutes can help relieve back tension) and bend your knees and lift them so that your thighs are roughly vertical. From this position, extend your legs out straight and aim to reach them approximately 1 inch off the floor before flexing the knees back to the original position. Aim to repeat this exercise for at least 12 reps and 3 sets.