Fitness, Whole Health

Abs, Core and Glutes – what is it?

There are the abs then the core muscles and, finally, the glutes.

Improve your total body health by training these areas of your body.  The results will be increased strength, stability and balance.

What muscles are involved?

The body’s core muscles include:

  • abs (abdominal muscles)
  • back muscles
  • pelvic floor muscles
  • glutes (buttocks)
  • other torso muscles.

What exercises are best for strengthening these muscles?

Planks and plank variations, abdominal bridges, reverse crunches, leg raises, and chin-ups are some good exercises for building the core muscles, the plank being one of the best.  The plank is a simple isometric exercise that can engage more than 20 muscles, including the abs, back, arms, shoulders, glutes, and hamstrings – depending on the variation of plank being   performed.

Planks are a simple exercise that can be done at home, negating the necessity of going to the gym.

There are many variations that include the side plank, forearm plank, hover plank, walking plank, extended plank, Bosu topside plank, single arm plank, plank hip dips,  reverse plank, and (on a stability ball):  plank crunches & plank pike-ups & plank rollouts. 

Planks increase strength along with contouring the obliques and help with posture and physique.

Begin with the two planks variations described below.  Start out holding each move for 20 to 30 seconds at a time, adding a few seconds at each work out.



Prone Plank

  1. Begin by supporting your body weight on just the toes and elbows, resting on the forearms.
  2. Tighten your abs (abdominal muscles) to stabilize the trunk, and rise up.
  3. Keep forearms parallel to each other with hands flat on the ground, or clasped together – whatever works best for you.
  4. Chin should be tucked; maintain good neck alignment with the trunk; keep eye gaze between hands; do not allow trunk to sag or hips to pike up.
  5. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  6. Slowly lower down, keeping back straight.
  7. Repeat.



Side (oblique) Plank

  1. Lie on your side, bring legs together until heels touch.
  2. Balance body weight on feet and elbow.
  3. Lift your trunk, forming a straight line.
  4. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  5. Slowly lower trunk.
  6. Repeat.



Increase Strength with Low-Energy (Eccentric) Exercise

Eccentric exercise/training is a form of exercise that works well for the elderly, and also for people with cardiopulmonary or neurological issues. It challenges the muscles; increases muscle strength; protects the joints; and uses a lesser amount of energy.

Eccentric training targets the muscle lengthening (elongation) phase of a muscle contraction by purposely slowing this portion of the contraction, resisting the force of gravity.

There are 3 facets to a muscle contraction. During a bicep curl (with a dumbbell), for example:

  1. concentric contraction: muscle contracts (shortens) as the weight is being lifted.
  2. isometric contraction: stopping movement (at 45 or 90 degrees).
  3. eccentric contraction: occurs while lowering the weight; the muscle lengthens. When controlling the rate of the downward motion of the dumbbell (resisting the force of gravity), the muscle is in a state of eccentric contraction.

It can be difficult for some senior citizens and those with certain afflictions to participate in a much needed rigorous exercise program, mostly due to loss of muscle mass.

Low intensity, eccentric exercise is ideal in these circumstances because:

  • may start out using lighter weights,
  • oxygen requirements are less for this type of exercise,
  • muscle damage and tendon strain is minimized (as compared to concentric exercise),
  • less weariness from eccentric training than from concentric training,
  • can raise resting metabolic rate.

An eccentric exercise program will train muscle groups and increase strength and flexibility with low-energy exercise. Some eccentric exercises are illustrated below to get you started:


EccenBlog6Sit to Stand (Knee Extension)

  1. Stand close to a chair.
  2. Slowly lower yourself into the seat of the chair (seated position).
  3. To increase difficulty, stop midway before completely lowering into the seated position.

When strong enough, progress to barely touching the chair.


EccenBlog4  Heel Lift (Ankle-Plantarflexion)

  1. Holding onto a support (such as a chair), raise up onto your toes.
  2. Now slowly lower your heels to the floor, taking 3-5 seconds to do so.

EccenBlog3a Straight Leg Raise (Hip Flexion / Knee Extension)

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Keeping your knee/leg straight, lift your right leg.
  3. Slowly lower your leg, taking 3-5 seconds to do so.
  4. Repeat with the other leg.

To decrease difficulty or to reduce back strain, sit up to perform the exercise (as shown in the small boxes).


EccenBlog2    Leg Lowering (Trunk / Abs)

  1. Lie on your back and lift legs straight up.  Be sure to pull your belly button in toward your spine for stabilization and do not arch your back.
  2. Slowly lower your legs, taking 3-5 seconds to do so.

To decrease difficulty or reduce back strain, bend your knees while lowering legs.


EccenBlog3  Elbow – Tricep Extension Drop

  1. Begin in position with elbow bent.
  2. Extend right arm straight out behind, quickly.
  3. Slowly bend your elbow back to starting position, taking 3-5 seconds to do so.
  4. Repeat with other arm.

To increase difficulty add weight using a dumbbell or other household item in your hand(s).


EccenBlog1  Abduction Lift (Shoulder)

  1. Standing with elbows bent, lift both arms to shoulder height.  Do not hunch or hike shoulders during the exercise.
  2. Slowly lower arms/elbows, taking 3-5 seconds to do so.

To increase difficulty add weight holding a dumbbell or other household item in your hands.