How do you train your core? If “crunches” was your answer, then you are only working a small portion of it. Your core is actually made up of all the muscles between your hips and shoulders, so you need to challenge all these muscles. When hiking on uneven terrain, your core has to stabilize your spine to keep you in an upright position. Make this your year to get stronger through core training for epic backpacking adventures!
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Here are 7 core exercises that you should be doing three times per week:
1. Standing DB Circle: Targets all core muscles
  • Stand with your feet wider than hip width.
  • Press your hands together while holding the ends of a dumbbell. Only go as heavy as you can; control the weight with perfect form.
  • Circle the dumbbell around your head, keep your ribcage down.
  • Alternate circling directions. The center of your body remains still.
  • Repeat for 1 minute.
2. Plank: Targets all core muscles
  • Get in a push up position with your feet about hip width.
  • Hands are directly underneath your shoulders with abs pulled in and body in a straight line.
  • Hold position for up to one minute.
  • Need it easier? Perform planks with your feet wider or from your knees. If your wrists are weak, perform plank from elbows.
3. Quadruped Opposite Arm and Leg Lift: Targets all core muscles
  • Start from a quadruped position on hands and knees.
  • Keep abs in with shoulders retracted and depressed.
  • Slowly lift opposite arm and leg simultaneously. Keep hips parallel to the ground.
  • Lengthen the arm and leg out as long as possible, hold for 2-3 seconds.
  • Slowly float the arm and leg down while keeping your core stable.
  • Perform 8-15 repetitions on one side; repeat sequence and reps on the opposite side.
  • Reminder: Your movements are smooth and fluid. Control the motion by pulling your abs in tight!
4. Back Extensions: Targets the lower back and glutes.
  • Lie on your stomach, abs pulled in and your shoulder blades retracted.
  • Squeeze your glutes by straightening your legs; your knees are not touching the floor.
  • Keep your head and neck in a neutral position, slowly raise your upper body up.
  • Hold position for 2-3 seconds and resist yourself as you lower back down.
  • Repeat sequence for 12-25 repetitions.
5. Bridge: Targets glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and abs.
  • Lie on your back with your feet and knees about hip width apart.
  • Actively press your shoulders and arms down to the ground.
  • Raise your hips by squeezing your glutes, your body in a straight line.
  • Hold position 2-3 seconds and slowly lower (float) back down.
  • Perform 12-25 reps.
  • Need it harder? Perform one leg bridges; straighten one leg out and hips parallel to the floor.

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6. Crunch & Twist: Targets upper part of the abdominals and the sides.
  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet hip width apart.
  • Dig your heels down to stabilize the hips.
  • Place your hands lightly at the back of your head with your elbows out and shoulders depressed.
  • Lift your chest up as high as you can without pulling on your neck.
  • Hold position 2-3 seconds.
  • Twist to one side hold 2-3 seconds, back to center, slowly lowering back down.
  • Repeat sequence; alternate the twist for 12-24 reps.
7. Reverse Curls: Targets the lower part of the abdominals.
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet close to your butt.
  • Press your arms into the floor and keep your shoulders retracted and depressed.
  • Exhale and pull your knees towards your chest, hold position 2-3 seconds; slowly lower back down.
  • Repeat sequence for 12-25 reps.

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The best part is that you can do these exercises anytime – no gym required! So hit the trail in confidence, knowing that you have done everything you can to keep yourself strong and safe on the trails.
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