I was in the front of the aerobics room, a dozen students watching me. I positioned my elbows underneath my shoulders and placed my palms on the floor. I lifted into a plank, making sure to keep a neutral spine and straight back. I pushed through the back of my heels and breathed.
1, 2, 3, 4.
My trunk muscles began to shake. I could feel my low back collapsing and my shoulders rounding.
5, 6, 7, 8.
I wanted the class to hold the abdominal exercise for 30 seconds and, 10 seconds in, I didn't think I could make it. I brought my knees to the floor, improvising to show everyone the different levels – tabletop, on tops of the thighs and on the toes. I encouraged everyone to find their own challenge.
I've come a long way from those first few classes after Silas. Plank for 30 seconds can still be a challenge but only because of my class load and general fatigue. The muscular endurance, though, is there. I give credit to a focus on incorporating foundation exercises for the trunk into my classes as they are good for everyone and mixing it up with Pilates-style moves.
Lately, I've found that these exercises make it into nearly every class.
Dead bug. I love this exercise because it is beginner friendly, and it takes the pressure of the low back. It also helps to teach the hips and shoulders to work independently. There are variations to increase the challenge but I often use this one as a warm-up to more challenging core moves.
Single leg stretch. When I came back to group exercise after Silas, we put Piloxing on my schedule for the first time in nearly two years. I found myself borrowing from the format and adding Pilates-inspired moves to many of my classes. I like this one because it works the lower and upper abs while increasing hamstring and upper back flexibility. If you have low back troubles, though, do not do this.
Reverse crunch with straight legs. This exercise targets the lower abs and takes the strain off the neck. (I instruct students to keep their heads on the floor.) This one is all about control, though, and you must lower the legs with intention.
And a note on the pike. I recently acquainted myself with "High Intensity Interval Training for Women" by Sean Bartram who trains the Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders. and love this challenging variation. At the top of the movement open the legs. Close the legs and lower them. Open as hips allow and close. Bring the legs up and repeat.
By the 12th rep, even on the first set, your muscles will be talking to you.
In October, I'm challenging my students to really work on their core, and we'll be trying to advance our planks and increase muscular endurance. I'm excited to see how the foundation we've created will help us during the challenge.
Disclaimer: I am an ACE certified personal trainer and have several group fitness certifications. However, I am not your trainer. If you choose to perform these exercises, you do so at your own risk.