In our last interaction we looked at using Thera-bands for training. This month, we’re looking particularly at strengthening our glutes, abs and leg muscles!
TTT: Hi Prem. We had an interesting chat last time about using Thera-bands. Are we looking at another fitness accessory today?
PM: Hi. No. Today I thought we would look at a basic area of fitness that all of us need to concentrate on — strengthening our glutes, leg muscles and abs (core).
TTT: We keep seeing ads on television selling products to improve one’s abs. How reliable or effective are they?
PM: I really can’t comment on individual products. I personally believe in a combination of natural diet and regular, guided exercise. We should get our supplements from our food intake rather than from a bottle. One issue I have with these ads is that they always show supremely fit models using the equipment leading one to assume that it is that equipment that has led to their great bodies, whereas the truth could be very different. This is misleading and hence it is difficult to actually assess the effectiveness of these machines. Also, each one’s body type is different and you need a doctor or a personal trainer to understand what is good for your body and what is not. There is no shortcut to fitness.
TTT: How does one go about strengthening these body parts?
PM: Before we begin, we need to understand the specific composition and requirements of these three parts of our body. Our abs or core is the most important part of our body. If you want to have a holistically fit body, your core has to be strong whether you are doing upper body or lower body training. Again, for any cardio activity, meaning activities like running, skipping or kickboxing which exercise the heart, the core has to be strong or else none of these exercises can be performed correctly. A weak core has an immediate effect on the flexibility of the body and will slowly cause other issues such as back problems. Simple everyday activities like picking up and holding things will start becoming a burden and difficult to execute.
In the human anatomy, our glutes and leg muscles form the biggest muscle combination in the body. If our lower body is not strong, our day-to-day activities could, over a period of time, get hampered due to weakening of or injuries to our knees, ankles and hips joints. I’ve noticed that people who frequent gyms often neglect lower body training and concentrate on upper body training perhaps due to the cosmetic effect of the same which is being promoted aggressively through the media in terms of six-pack or eight-pack abs and the like.
Many of us lead a sedentary lifestyle and end up sitting for six to eight hours every day at our desks. If our core and lower body are not strong, this will invariably lead to back issues which is the worst possible ailment one can possibly suffer from.
TTT: That was very insightful, Prem. I can now see why you put such great emphasis on exercising these parts of our body. What are the exercises we can do to strengthen our core muscles?
PM: The basic exercises which we can do to strengthen our core are the plank family of exercises. We covered the high plank where we place our body parallel to the floor in a push-up position and rise upwards on our forearms with our palms flat on the ground as well as the low plank position where we do the same movement but with your palms now balled into fists in an earlier issue.
Today, I will tell you about two more plank positions. The first is called Side Plank. Start by lying down on your side. Slowly lift your hips while keeping your legs close to each other and touching the floor by balancing on one hand folded at the elbow.
Beginners usually use the other hand for leverage by pressing down with their palm flat on the ground. As your core gets stronger, you can raise your other hand straight up in the air. Based on your stamina and your core strength, you can maintain the position for 30-40 seconds and increase the duration gradually. In a session, you would start with 2-3 side planks and move perhaps to 4. Concentrate on the time you can hold a plank rather than the frequency of the same.