Thanksgiving break can be a bit of a tease. You get to go home, relax, stuff yourself with food and then live in a coma-like state for the next few days. While allowing your mind and body to recuperate before you dive into the last couple weeks of the semester is essential, you can’t let yourself get sluggish. To kick-start this week and get your heart rate pumping, Pipe Dream has come up with an abdominal circuit and a back workout that you’re sure to feel after this long weekend.
Perform the following three exercises back-to-back for 30 seconds each to complete round one. After the first round, rest for 20 seconds and do two to three more rounds, resting between each.
1) Leg Lifts
Muscle targeted: Rectus abdominus (abs)
Lie on your back with your hands at your sides and your palms facing down. Lift both legs up so they are in line with your hips and perpendicular to the ground. Lift your head, neck and shoulders off the mat and leave them up for the duration of the exercise to keep pressure off of your lower back. This is your starting position. Keeping your legs straight without locking your knees, bring one leg down and up and then switch legs, all at your own pace. If you feel a pull in your lower back when you bring a leg down, you’re going too low. Listen to your body. To decrease the intensity of this exercise, modify it by bringing your knees to your chest and tapping your toes on the ground as you alternate. To increase the intensity of this exercise, slow down your pace and lift and lower both legs at the same time.
2) Toe Touches
Muscle targeted: Rectus abdominus (abs)
As soon as the 30 seconds for leg lifts are up, leave your legs up in the starting position and bring your arms up parallel to your legs. Crunch up and down by lifting the head, neck and shoulders off the ground, then back down at your own pace. Reach your fingertips in the direction of your toes as you go up, without actually touching your toes. Leave a little space between your chin and your chest. To decrease the intensity of this exercise, drop your legs, keep your feet flat on the ground and continue to crunch up.
Muscle targeted: Obliques (sides)
After the 30 seconds of toe touches, bend your legs so that your feet are flat on the ground and extended a few inches further from the body than normal. Bring your arms out to the side and keep your head, neck and shoulders lifted. Squeeze in your tummy, bellybutton to spine, and tap on the outside of your heels, alternating side to side while staying low.
After you work the front of your body, you’ll need to strengthen the back to help maintain good posture. The muscle that works in opposition to the rectus abdominus is the erector spinae, which runs along the vertebrae column on your back. To get a little work out of this muscle before you stretch, do 30-45 seconds of a superman variation. Take no more than 40 seconds to rest and grab water before this exercise.
Start by laying on your stomach with your arms out in front and your legs straight behind you on the ground. You can either lift both of the legs and arms up at the same time and hold, or alternate lifting one leg and the opposite arm, or lift only your arms or only your legs — any of these are perfect to engage the backside. Pick a variation that suits you and do it for 30-45 seconds.
Post work-out stretch:
Roll onto your back, bringing your arms up, over and behind your head and rest them on the ground. Your finger tips should be pointing back so that your body is in a straight, flat line. Keeping your legs and arms down, reach through your toes and fingertips, feeling the stretch in your core. Next, come up on to one bent knee, with the other leg bent at a 90-degree angle in front of you and lunge forward to open up the hip flexor after all of those leg lifts. Be sure to not let the knee of your front leg pass over that ankle. To get a deeper stretch, slide your back knee further back and/or bring your hands or forearms down to the ground. Do this on both sides and then finish off by sitting up tall and cross-legged, stretching the oblique by reaching up and over to each side, alternately.