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Strengthen your core to support your body

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The core muscles, including the abs, obliques, and lower back, hold the body erect, support the spine, protect the inner organs, and assist with breathing. Weak core muscles can lead to bad posture, lower back pain, and shallow breathing. Strengthening the core muscles will combat these problems, as well as help to create a firmer midsection. Try the following moves during your next workout.

Plank - Begin in full push up position with the hands under the shoulders. Pull the belly up toward the spine and push through the shoulder blades. Hold for 45-60 seconds. To advance this move pick one leg up off of the floor. To modify this move lower down to the knees.

Ball crunches - Sit on an exercise ball and walk the feet out until the thighs are parallel with the floor. Place the hands behind the head for support. Lean back until you fell the abs engage and return to start. Repeat for sets of 15-20 reps. Hold a weight behind the head for added resistance.

Low bridge - Lie flat and bend the knees so the feet are flat on the floor. Place the feet about hip distance apart and press through the heels to push the body off the floor. Hold for 3-5 breaths then lower slowly back to start. Repeat for 6-8 reps.

Russian twist - Sit on the floor with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor. Hold a weight or medicine ball out in front of the body while leaning back. Keep the abs pulled tight toward the spine. Twist the weight side to side by rotating the torso. Repeat for 15-20 reps. Pick the feet up for an added challenge.

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