By Erin Taylor, Jasyoga Head Coach
Hey crunch addicts, we’ve got news for you — flailing your limbs and jerking your torso won’t strengthen your core (or give you a six pack!). Most traditional ab work doesn’t do much other than strain your neck, hunch your shoulders forward, and showcase your ability to look like a dying bug. Practical? Hmmmmm…
Think about it: aside from running, what do you do a lot of? We’re gonna go out on a limb and guess you might sit a lot (hey, we all do). And what do running and sitting have in common? They both shorten the front of your body, most notably at your hips and chest. And what do crunches do? Shorten the front of the body at the hips and chest. Really, does anyone need help shortening their front? Exactly. If you love tight hip flexors and think floppy posture is sexy, disregard this blog and carry on.
So how do I build functional — practical — core strength and tone my abs, you ask? Focus on poses and exercises that bring awareness to and strengthen muscles beneath your six-pack, which support your spine and ultimately add more power to your stride, not to mention prevent injuries. And, do it in a way that mimics your sports movement patterns, so that you can wrap your mind around how to use muscles when you’re actually running.
It’s time to get your #yogaabs on. Remember to slow down, stop flailing around, initiate your movement from deep in your core, and strengthen from the inside out. You’ll probably even tone up the surface layer in the process...
Legs (only!) Bicycle
- Lie on your back with your knees bent/feet on the ground and find a neutral resting place for your spine.
- Keeping your spine just like that, bring your knees up over your hips.
- Drop your arms open to your sides and relax your neck and shoulders.
- Inhaling, extend your right leg long toward the ground.
- Exhaling, bring it back to the start.
- Move slowly and focus on keeping your spine completely still (if you crunch your knees all the way into your chest, you’ll lose the alignment in your back) — your core makes this happen while you move your legs.
- Switch sides for 1 rep, and repeat 20 times. Rest and do a second set if you want.
Spinal Balance Running
- Come onto all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
- Look at the ground so that the back of your neck is long and neutral.
- Lift your navel toward your spine and draw your ribs together so that you can maintain a neutral spine (rather than a banana back).
- Inhaling, extend your right leg long behind you with your right hip and your flexed right foot still pointing at the ground.
- Exhaling, use your core to bring that knee in toward your belly without letting your spine move (your knee won’t get all the way in there, that’s okay).
- Repeat slowly 10 times and keep the leg extended behind you after the last one — reach your opposite arm forward and hold for 5 deep breaths. Switch sides.
- Come into a plank and engage your core so that you can maintain a neutral spine (again, mitigate banana back), and look at the ground.
- Inhaling, lift your right foot.
- Exhaling, bring your right knee toward your right elbow, keeping your spine stable through the entire movement.
- Repeat slowly 10 times before switching sides.
Note: if this feels too hard, just do an extra set of Spinal Balance Running instead.
- Stand up, engage your core, and shift your weight onto your left leg.
- Hinge your body forward and extend your right leg long behind you (just like you did in spinal balance running and plank running) while you look at the ground.
- Reach your arms back along your sides and try to keep your hips squared toward the ground.
- Take 5+ deep breaths before switching sides.
When you're done, stretch it out like this:
Check out Coach Erin's Jasyoga schedule for more ops to get your #yogaabs on!