“Many people believe that their core is simply their abdominal ‘six-pack’ muscles, and to strengthen them, all they need are crunches,” says Teri Jory, Los Angeles–based personal trainer, professional ice skater, fourth-degree black belt and creator of the POISE method and the creator of the following dumbbell core workout.
The reality of good core work goes much deeper, however. “We have deep inner core muscles that serve as pillars for stabilizing our pelvis and lower back, giving the rest of our body a firm foundation to handle the movements we make throughout the day,” Jory explains.
Effectively training the myriad muscles that crisscross our abdominal and lower-back region requires attention both inside and outside the gym. Take some time during each day — no matter where you may be, whether it’s school, work, running errands or hanging out at home — and try the following two-step core exercise:
1) First, pull your bellybutton in toward your spine. “This activates your transverse abdominis, which I call your built-in corset,” Jory explains. “Your corset works in harmony with your multifidus muscles that run from your pelvis and low back up to your neck. Think of these as laces that tie your corset and hold your belly muscles in tight by activating them.”
2) Second, activate your pelvic floor muscles. “The pelvic floor muscles look like a hammock running from the front of your pubic bone to the back of your tailbone,” Jory says. “They hold your internal organs up and together. You activate them by doing the same thing you’d do when trying to stop the flow of urine — squeeze tight.”
By pulling in your bellybutton and squeezing your pelvic floor muscles simultaneously for five to 10 seconds, four to five times per day, you’ll start your journey toward a strong and healthy core. Add the following resistance-training workout designed by Jory — which just requires one 5- to 10-pound dumbbell and a regular sleeping pillow — one to two times a week for optimal conditioning and results.