Challenges can be a great way to find motivation, jumpstart a training program, and boost fitness.
But you have to be careful jumping into a challenge. Some challenges require a lot more activity than you are used to or more stress than you are physically ready for. But, strategically and wisely pushing your body with a challenge can also be a good way to break out of a rut.
So, with all that said, I want to introduce you to the January Core Challenge.
The purpose is to safely build a strong core. This doesn’t simply mean doing a bunch of sit ups. We are going to hit the abs obliques, glutes. By the end of January, we will have a strong core, which will serve you well as we journey through the season.
End-Of-January GOAL: 2 minutes
Lie on the floor with elbows directly beneath your shoulders and legs fully extended. Raise your torso into the air until it makes a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Tighten your stomach, squeeze your butt and hold this position for the desired amount of time.
- Do not allow your back to round.
- Do not allow your hips to drop or sag.
- Press your elbows into the floor and squeeze your glutes to maximize stability.
End-Of-January GOAL: 1 min each side
Lie on one side with your legs stacked and fully extended. Using your lower elbow and forearm, prop your body up, making sure to keep your abs tight the entire time. Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles.
- Squeeze your abs and glutes to keep your body stabilized.
- Keep your neck in line with your spine and avoid raising or dropping your head.
- Don’t allow your hips to drop. Maintain a straight line from head to toes.
End-Of-January GOAL: 50 each side (sets of 10, alternate left and right)
- Get down on all fours and position your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
2. Kick back with one leg and squeeze the glutes.
3. Bend the knee, lower the leg and repeat.
4. Switch legs.
End-Of-January GOAL: 50 (split into shorter sets)
- Start seated with knees bent at roughly a ninety-degree angle and feet flat on the mat.
- Lean your upper body back so it’s at a roughly 45-degree angle with the floor.
- Bend your elbows and hold them out in front of your body or cross them in front of your chest if you prefer.
- Start moving only your trunk to the left. Keep your core tight and contracted, and make sure you aren’t just moving your shoulders and head. You should be rotating your entire top half to the left (as far as you can safely go), and your bottom half should remain frozen.
- Return to center position then repeat to the right.
A twist to the left and a twist to the right counts as one rep. Said another way: left plus right equals one. Build up to 10 to 15 reps. Rest between sets. NOTE: you MUST stop if your form breaks down. I’d rather you do sets of 5 PERFECTLY than sets of 10 or 15 where you have poor form.
How to Make It Harder:
- To challenge yourself, raise your feet up instead of resting them on the mat while you twist.
- You can also try holding a weight in both hands near your chest and twisting with it. A medicine ball or bumper plate will work best.
SINGLE LEG GLUTE BRIDGE
End-Of-January Goal: 50 both sides (alternate 10 left, 10 right, repeat… hopefully non-stop!)
Lie faceup on the mat with knees bent, feet flat on floor, arms resting at sides. Extend right leg straight out keeping both knees in line. Press through left heel to lift hips up toward ceiling then slowly lower back down. Complete reps then repeat on other leg.
End-Of-January GOAL: 50 (split into shorter sets to maintain proper form)
End-Of-January Goal: 50 (split into shorter sets)
- Start by lying on your back on the mat with your knees and feet lifted off the ground at a ninety-degree angle.
- Lace your hands behind your head to cradle your neck and head, but do not pullon your neck and head. Allow your elbows to fall out to the sides.
- Start by raising your shoulders and upper back up off the mat and leaning slightly to the left. At the same time, bring your left knee toward your chest, so your left knee and your right elbow come together.
- Do the same with the other side by bringing your right knee and your left elbow together.
Connecting your left knee and right elbow once and your right knee and left elbow once equals one rep. Said another way: left plus right equals one. Build up to 10 to 15 reps. Rest between sets. NOTE: you MUST stop if your form breaks down. I’d rather you do sets of 5 PERFECTLY than sets of 10 or 15 where you have poor form.
How to Make It Harder:
- To challenge yourself even more, when you reach the peak of one crunch (with elbow at opposite knee), stay there. You can either hold for a 5-count or do 5 extra “mini crunches” at this contracted position.
- Another way to increase difficulty is to extend your legs beyond ninety-degrees. The straighter and lower your “free” leg is, the harder this move will be.
End-Of-January GOAL: 50 (hopefully nonstop!)
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, weight in your heels, and your arms at your sides.
- Push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body into a squat.
- Place your hands on the floor directly in front of, and just inside, your feet. Shift your weight onto them.
- Jump your feet back to softly land on the balls of your feet in a plank position. Your body should form a straight line from your head to heels. Be careful not to let your back sag or you butt stick up in the air, as both can keep you from effectively working your core.
- Jump your feet back so that they land just outside of your hands.
- Reach your arms over head and explosively jump up into the air.
- Land and immediately lower back into a squat for your next rep.
Want to mix it up? You’re in luck. Burpees are super versatile and can be tailored to any fitness level. To slow the move down and make it a bit easier, moving into a plank position by stepping, rather than jumping, your feet behind you. Or if you want to crank things up a notch, turn your plank into a pushup, your jump into a tuck jump, or both.