Health Tips

Best Core Workouts for Men and Women

Core Workouts for Men and Women
Core Workouts for Men and Women

Core workouts strength training should be a part of any workout routine.  While building a strong core will help you get six pack abs, the core actually plays a much more important role in the overall function of your body.  So what are the best Core Workouts for men and women?  They’re exercises that work the abdominals, hips, and back.  As you’ll see, most of these core exercises involve keeping your body straight as well.

Importance of Core Strength Training

Your core is a group of muscles centered around the belly and mid/lower back.  Aside from helping you stand up straight, core muscles assist in lifting and pushing.  These types of motions are a part of being functionally fit; that is being able to perform everyday actions.  Just as important, core strength helps prevent lower-back problems and injuries.  Core strength training is important for athletes as well since the core is responsible for generating more powerful movements.  A side effect of core strength training is that once you reduce body fat, you’ll have a nice set of six pack abs.

Best Core Workouts

There are quite a few ways to work your core muscles.  Here are some of my favorite exercises that will help you get a stronger core.

Plank core workouts:

Plank Workouts

In my opinion, the old school yoga plank is still the best way to get a strong core.  For a long time, I resisted this exercise thinking it wasn’t adequately difficult.  Boy was I wrong!  In addition to the traditional straight body forearm plank, there are a number of different plank exercises you can perform.

Side Plank core workouts:

Side Plank Workouts

One notable variation of the plank is the side plank.  While the traditional plank will work your middle core muscles, the side plank specifically targets your obliques (your side abdominal muscles).

Pushups core workouts:

Pushups Workouts

A plank is really just a static hold of a pushup position in many ways.  Well, real pushups require and recruit core strength as well.  There’s a reason that you’ve always heard about the importance of keeping a straight back when doing pushups and it’s so you work those core muscles.

Ab Wheel core workouts:

Ab Wheel Workouts

This little piece of equipment will really utilize your ab muscles.  Simple but effective!

Hanging Straight Leg Raises core workouts:

Hanging Straight Leg Raises Workouts

Hanging from a pull up bar, you utilize your core muscles to slowly lift and lower your legs.  If you can’t do these yet, then you could consider following the progressions outlined in Convict Conditioning.

Back Bridges core workouts:

Back Bridges Workouts

Another Convict Conditioning exercise, bridges will help you work your back muscles and serve as a way to prevent future injury.  If you can get to the point where you’re doing stand-to-stand bridges, you probably won’t need to worry about many future back injuries.

Weightlifting core workouts

Weightlifting Core Workouts

Bodyweight exercises aren’t the only ways to recruit core muscles.  In fact, a number of compound weightlifting exercises can also help you improve core strength.

Standing Shoulder Press core workouts:

Standing Shoulder Press Workouts

One of my favorite exercises, standing shoulder presses require you to stabilize your core in order to press the weight over your head.  I think using a barbell is the most effective way to work the core.

Renegade Rows core workouts:

Renegade Rows Workouts

This is a challenging movement that requires you to perform one arm dumbbell rows while in a pushup position.

Deadlift core workouts:

Deadlift Workouts

Theforms is critical when performing a deadlift as you could very easily get injured.  The idea is to stand up straight while lifting a very heavy weight off the ground.  Definitely a full body exercise that requires leg, back, arm, and grip strength.

Front/Goblet Squats core workouts:

squats while either holding a heavy dumbbell in front of you or front squats where you hold the barbell at shoulder level both necessitate a strong core to complete the exercise.

Perfect Posture

Aside from exercising, a very simple way to help stabilize your core is simply to stand up or sit up straight as often as possible.  The less you slouch, the tighter your core will become.  Vince DelMonte’s free report on Perfect Posture reviews some ways to help you improve your posture.

Core Strength Training

Make core strength training a part of your workout routine.  There’s a good chance that you’re already using your core muscles in many of your weight training exercises.  You also utilize your core on a regular basis just by performing everyday movements.  However, the best Core Workouts for men and women listed above can really target those muscles centered around your abs and back.  This in turn will help prevent injury and probably increase your strength in other areas as well.

How Much Protein Do I Need Per Day?

A common question posed by anyone who has read bodybuilding literature is: how much protein do I need per day?  Generally, bodybuilding magazines claim you need 200-300 grams of protein per day to build muscle mass.  For years, I believed in this approach.  I drank Myoplex and Muscle Milk and tried to include some form of protein with every meal.  Did I see huge muscle mass gains?  No.  I saw my weight increase with just as much fat gain as protein gain.  What happened?

While there is in fact a minimum amount of protein necessary to build muscle, the problem is that it’s not nearly as high as you’d think.  Just like the myth that eating 6 times per day will increase your metabolism and help you lose fat, the myth of how much protein you need is predicated on somewhat biased studies.  Fortunately, Brad Pilon of Eat Stop Eat came up with How Much Protein to sort out the real scientific facts about protein…from how much protein you need per day to whether post workout protein shakes are important.

Study Biases

Be skeptical about studies you read on protein.  Many are sponsored by food companies and supplement companies.  While they may do their best to avoid any bias, it’s clear that they have a vested interest in portraying protein as absolutely essential to muscle building.  Fitness magazines generally publish these types of studies because they are primarily funded by supplement company advertising.  While this doesn’t necessary mean the research is falsified, just realize there may be an agenda or some bias in the results.

Recommended Daily Protein Intake

The recommendations for how much protein you need vary significantly.  Generally, government agencies encourage 40-60 grams of protein per day while bodybuilding magazines encourage 30 grams of protein every 2-3 hours!  The current Recommend Daily Allowance for adults is 0.4 grams per pound of bodyweight.  This is the minimum allowance in order to prevent muscle loss.  However, this amount of protein fails to adjust for activity level or other variables that could affect muscle building.

How Much Protein to Gain Muscle:

How Much Protein filters through all the studies done on protein’s affect on muscle building to come to a conclusion about how much protein you need per day.  I don’t want to give away the ultimate conclusion, but let’s just say it’s a lot lower than you think and much closer to the Recommended Daily Allowance than any bodybuilding publication’s recommendation.

Do You Need Protein Shakes?

After reading How Much Protein, it’s clear to me that you don’t need as much protein as you think, but is there still a role for protein shakes?  I’d argue that protein shakes can still serve a valuable role as a meal replacement, but not as a supplement.  I haven’t read anything to support the notion that you don’t get enough protein over the course of the week from regular eating habits.  Even a high carb food like pasta still contains protein.  However, if you do need a way to regulate your calories, then protein shakes can serve as a nutritious meal replacement, assuming you like the taste.  I’m a believer that most of your calories should come from more natural sources though.

How Much Protein – Protein Foods:

Too Much Protein?

All this being said, having too much protein isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It’s just that meats and protein shakes are expensive and having more protein doesn’t translate into a 1:1 muscle gain.  In other words, if you double your protein intake, you’re not going to double your muscle growth, so why bother focusing on how much protein you eat?  In fact, by significantly increasing your protein intake, you’re really just adding excess calories that could ultimately lead to fat gain.

How Much Protein Do I Need Per Day?

While How Much Protein provides an absolute range of recommended protein intake (rather than based on your weight or percent of daily calories), a good general rule to follow is to have 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass if you’re trying to gain muscle.  You really don’t need much more than this.  If you’re trying to lose weight, you can probably go as low as 0.6 grams per pound of lean body mass and still not lose any muscle.  It sounds low but even people on an 800 calorie per day diet were able to maintain muscle mass simply by performing resistance training.  I doubt they got much more than 0.6 grams per pound.

So how much protein do I need per day?  Weighing 136lbs with 10% body fat, I have about 122lbs of lean muscle.  Therefore, I need 122 grams of protein per day to gain muscle.  I could go as low as 73 grams of protein to simply maintain muscle mass.  Over the course of a week, I estimate I get around 100 grams of protein per day so I’m right in the proper range to maintain or slightly gain some muscle mass.

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