By Kirsten Quick, ACE Certified Trainer and Group Instructor

NOTE: This and all content in Faith & Fitness Magazine is for information only. You should consult with your own health care provider, personal trainer or other professional for all your health and fitness.

When you think of the word ‘core’ words like center, middle and foundation may come to mind. Core can be used in describing beliefs or values or an anatomical muscle group. There are many correlations between building and maintaining a strong core physically and spiritually.
Spiritually, my relationship with Jesus is my center of being. I receive my strength, guidance and solid foundation from having strong faith. God is my core. Everything I do comes from His strength and love for me. I am a better and stronger person for it. David, the psalmist in the Bible put it this way, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped”. Jesus even said “Without Me, you can do nothing,”
A quote from Our Daily Bread, which our family reads daily, emphasizes the importance of God being our core strength: “When especially difficult circumstances or strong temptations invade our lives and remind us of our powerlessness, we have an all-powerful God who works on behalf of those who trust Him.”
Our physical core differs from our spiritual core. Physically, our core is our anatomical center. Our Physical core is made up of muscles that run the length of our trunk and torso. These muscles are stabilizing and support our spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle. These all-important muscles give us a solid base of support protecting and enabling us to be stronger in every movement and activity. Without a strong physical core, we open ourselves up to back injury and pain. Just as without a strong spiritual core, we open ourselves up to drifting away from what really matters – God’s love, hope, peace, wisdom.
Strengthening both our spiritual and physical cores are imperative if we want to stay strong and capable of facing the daily challenges in our lives. Spiritually we can pray, read the Bible and other books, which will help us understand God better. We can love one another, perform deeds that please God and follow the Ten Commandments. Physically we can condition our core through exercises that target that muscle group. Body weight exercises are very effective in developing core strength. They are also the type of exercises many athletes and coaches rely on for regular core training.
Focus on a few exercises, which help build a strong physical core. Anyone can participate in this core workout. You may want to have a mat or towel on the floor, water and a timer. Your core-dominant program includes nine exercises.
1. Warmup 2. Center Plank 3. Modifications for Plank 4. Mountain Climbers 5. Mountain Climber Straddle Legs 6. Heart Rate Up: High knee jog and jumping jacks 7. Side Planks 8. Heart Rate Up: Squats/Jumping Jacks combination 9. Pushup/Pike combination

Read through these exercises then print them for reference as you perform them. The following in-depth descriptions of the individual exercises describe technique and proper form for your core-dominant workout program.
1 WARM UP - Start your core workout by first selecting some spiritually motivating praise music. Walk or run up and down stairs in your home 10 times. Then perform 20 jumping jacks (low-impact version: just take the jumping out).
2 CENTER PLANK - The first core exercise we are going to do is called the center plank. Get in a pushup position and go to your forearms. Contract your abdominal muscles – don’t sag in your midsection – keep a long spine. To correctly brace, try to pull your bellybutton back in toward your spine. Be careful not to hold your breath! Relax your shoulders and neck and gaze about 6-inches above the center of your hands. Try to hold this position for as long as you can. Use a timer and set it for 30 seconds, a minute then a minute and a half! It’s achievable! Your body will get conditioned and stronger every time you do this!
3 MODIFICATIONS FOR PLANK - As you get stronger add these modifications to your plank- set your timer and go!
ALTERNATING KNEE TAPS – maintain a strong spine and long legs, just tap your knees down.

ALTERNATING HIP TAPS – same rule as above, bring one hip toward the floor then the other. Keep your rear end down!

LIFT ONE LEG THEN THE OTHER – plank position then lift one leg up. Leg stays long-engage your bun muscle and hold. Use the timer and try to hold for 30 seconds or longer. Perform same exercise using the other leg. Don’t lock out your knees.

4 MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS - Get in a pushup position and perform 1-min. of mountain climbers (one leg is long, the other knee is up toward chest, alternate and repeat). This is a quick-moving exercise with bounce! You can always do low impact by taking the bounce out.

5 MOUTAIN CLIMBER WIDE STRADDLE LEGS - Same pushup position – this time do 1 min. of wide straddle legs – legs are long and open and close – be careful to maintain a long spine and don’t let your rear end rise up!

6 HEART RATE JOG - Let’s get that heart rate up again by doing a high-knee jog – use your natural running arms to pump your body and lift those knees as high as they can go (low-impact version: take out the jump) Do this for 1 minute. Add on 30 jumping jacks.

7 SIDE PLANK - The next core exercise we will do is called the side plank. Laying on your side and lifting your body up by putting your elbow on the floor under your shoulder. Hips are stacked and off the ground, legs long or bottom knee can be resting on the floor with top leg long on top. Feet can be on top of each other or one in front of the other on the floor. Set timer for 30 seconds and work up to one minute and longer. You can add intensity by lifting the top leg and holding. Lift arm straight up. The longer you can go – the stronger your core! Repeat doing the other side.

8 HEART RATE SQUATS - Raise the heart rate and work your core by performing 30 squats. Form is important – make sure your feet are slightly wider than hip-width apart. Squat – make sure you push through your heels – keep your chest lifted and rear end moving toward the floor. Finish off this sequence with 20 jumping jacks then repeat 20 squats.

9 PUSHUP/ PIKE COMBINATION - Pushups are great for the core. Keep your spine long – hands to the outside of your shoulder line- bring chest down toward the floor. Keep head and neck relaxed. Gaze should be to the center of your hands several inches above your fingertips. If you are struggling with form go down to your knees and do the pushups from there. 15 Pushups – to a Pike (stay in pushup position but lift rear straight up – bellybutton to spine - hold – repeat 15 pushups. Perform this combination 3 times.

To become more knowledgeable in building a strong physical core, you can call upon a certified personal trainer. For spiritual core growth, you can reach out to your priest or minister, or another trusted God-oriented person in your life.
Kirsten Quick is an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer and a certified group fitness instructor with 20 years experience. New to the Charlotte-area, she is looking forward to combining her strong commitment to God and her passion for fitness.

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