Prep Your Core to Get Fitter

How to build mobility and stability while strengthening your mid-section.

By now, athletes know that training the core goes far beyond building a visible six-pack. “Research shows that you should always train for good mobility in the upper portion of the core and good stability in the lower portion,” says exercise physiologist Geralyn Coopersmith, former head of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute. “With this foundation, you are able to build a midsection that functions in peak condition, meaning it’s able to flex, rotate, laterally flex and extend.”

This, she notes, helps carve muscles that are responsive. “They will turn on automatically and be engaged no matter what you're doing." 

For a more functional core, add these mobility- and stability-building moves into your regular routine.

1.     Inchworm  Stand with feet together, arms by sides. Reach down and place hands on floor in front of you, then slowly walk hands forward, keeping legs straight, until you are in plank position (palms under shoulders, legs extended behind you, abs engaged). Slowly walk feet forward to meet hands, keeping legs straight. Return to standing and repeat. 

2.     Plank to Downward-Facing Dog Touches  Start in plank position. Shift back into downward-facing dog (upside down V) and touch toes with right hand as you do. Return to plank and repeat, touching toes with left hand. Continue alternating sides with each rep. 

3.     Bird-Dog Push-Up  Perform a push-up, keeping elbows by sides. Extend right arm in front of you and left leg behind you; hold balance for one count, then lower. Do another push-up, and repeat balance on other side (left arm; right leg). Repeat. 

4.     Plank Reach-Through to Side Plank  Start in plank position. Lift right hand off floor and reach arm under your body and over to left, rotating torso to left. Rotate torso back through center and open arm up to ceiling, going into a left side plank. Return to start and repeat on the other side. 

5.     Alternating forward lunge with rotation  Stand with feet hip-width apart and bend your elbows, clasping your hands together in front of your chest. Take a big step forward with right foot as you extend your arms in front of you. Bend knees into a lunge as you rotate shoulders to the right. Rotate back to center and step back to the starting position. Repeat, this time lunging forward with left foot and rotating to the left. Continue, alternating sides.

6.     Renegade Arm Extension  Get in plank position. Raise right arm to shoulder height in front of you with palm facing left. Lower right hand to starting position and repeat with left arm. Continue at a medium tempo, alternating arms.