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Stability: ball planks

​Spiderman Plank. A great way to hit your core from every angle. It's a forearm plank on the ball where you slowly alternate bringing a knee in toward your elbow, while keeping your hips level and in line with your head and shoulders. Now your upper back, shoulders and upper abs are stabilizing you while your lower abs and obliques are working. Multitasking at its finest!
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Stability: ball planks

​Stir the Pot. Of course you could just do a forearm plank on the stability ball but why not make it a little more interesting and really challenge your core? Separate your feet about hip-width (or even shoulder-width) distance in your plank with your forearms on the ball. Imagine that you have a big mixing spoon between your clasped hands and create a circular motion with your forearms similar to stirring a big pot. Keep the movement in your upper body only, using your core to stabilize you. Be sure to stir the pot in both directions. Whew! This is a toughie for sure.
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Stability: ball planks

​Jackknife. Start in a plank with the tops of your feet flat on the stability ball. Keeping your shoulders and wrists stacked, pull from your core and press your hips high up into the air (aiming to get your hips right over your shoulders). Work to keep your legs straight but don't lock your knees. Balance the weight evenly over the palms of your hands. Then, slowly lower your hips down and come back into a legs-elevated plank — but don't let your hips sag — before rolling back up again. This is also fabulous prep for working into a handstand.
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Stability: ball planks

Legs-Elevated Plank. You've got a couple of options about how to place your feet on the ball: tops of the feet flat on the ball or toes tucked under like I'm doing in the demo picture. The tops of the feet is easier than toes tucked under but it's a huge stretch on the front of the ankles (which may or may not be tolerable for you). Keep the front and back of your neck long and look slightly ahead of you on the floor. Don't tuck your chin into your chest and don't look too far in front of you. Wanna take this up a notch? Try lifting one leg at a time … yikes!
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Stability: ball planks

​For good reason, the plank continues to steadily replace the situp or crunch as the test of core strength in the health and fitness world. And why wouldn't it? The plank is super effective for training so many of the key muscles in the core all at the same time without placing so much pressure on the spine and hips. The 2-minute plank is rapidly becoming the target benchmark used by many trainers when measuring their clients' fitness. When done with proper form, planking is also fabulous for improving posture. As the front of your body works to keep you from crashing onto the floor, the muscl...
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Yoga Scorpion Pose

​As the name implies, the yoga scorpion pose, another trunk rotation exercise, was originally intended as a yoga pose. It's showing up more and more, though, in fitness and performance training programs, either as a dynamic warm-up stretch or as a "core exercise" performed on a Swiss ball.A look at the movement confirms there's no sport or activity in daily life that even remotely resembles the body position and action of this exercise. And not only does the yoga scorpion pose look unnatural, it's also invalidated by the science of human biomechanics, which shows the exercise has the potential...
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Lying Torso Twist

​The lying torso twist is another exercise that just about everyone, from beginners to personal trainers, seem to use as a staple in their abs workout or core training program. The move entails lying on the floor, with your legs up, and twisting your hips from side to side. There are two variations of this exercise: One version is done with bent knees, while the other, tougher, version is done with straight legs.But according to Shirley Sahrmann, a professor in the program in physical therapy at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, movements like the prone torso twist, as wel...
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Exercise Risk vs Reward

​All exercises have both a risk and a reward. Choose exercises that pose the least risk while offering the most benefit. Don't do an exercise just because it looks cool or because that's what you've always done. Remember, your primary goal is to not get injured while getting into shape.You can quickly and easily evaluate any exercise by asking yourself this question: "Does the exercise make both common sense and scientific sense?"The common sense part is simple. You can determine that by just looking at the movement. If it looks natural or seems similar to an action used during normal daily ac...
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Exercises That Could Be Hurting Your Back

​Have you ever thought about why you do the exercises in your current workout routine? Probably not. Because the fact is, most people, even personal trainers, learn their moves from coaches or from a book, or maybe even from an online video and continue doing these exercises indefinitely.It's always a good idea to occasionally stop and evaluate the worth of an exercise, assess its risk to reward ratio. After all, a few of the commonly included moves in yoga and Pilates classes, along with those in the "core training" or "functional" strength programs of many personal trainers, aren't really th...
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​A single faulty joint affects the body as a whole because the individual parts of the human body are meant to work synergistically, not independently. As long as there's not permanent damage in the joint, you can regain lost ranges of motion through preventive care, its recommended performing daily self-assessments and joint-mobility exercises. "If you look at life, maintenance is one of the key principles. It doesn't matter if you're maintaining your car, your lawn or your personal relationships. Once you stop maintaining it, it goes down. Same thing with your body,"
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​Working at a computer all day, gripping heavy weights at the gym or past wrist strains can lead immobility in the wrists. This can make effective body-weight exercises like push-ups and certain yoga poses uncomfortable or even impossible. Wrist rolls can help facilitate those movements. HOW TO DO IT: With your arms outstretched in front of you, fully open your hands. Bring your fingers back toward your forearm, then circle at the wrist for five to 10 repetitions in each direction on both wrists
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​Mobilizing your ankles may be just what you need in order to let go of nagging running injuries and finally ditch that knee brace for good. "The epidemic of plantar fasciitis and fallen arches is a result of the foot bones destabilizing in order to compensate for the ankle being incapable of absorbing and retranslating force," says mobility expert Scott Sonnon. The ankle-roll mobility drill restores movement to the ankle and, as a result, restabilizes knee alignment in your gait as well as causing arches to stop falling and resolving pain from plantar fasciitis, says Sonnon. HOW TO DO IT: Sta...
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​Knee pain is often the result of loss of mobility at the hips, says mobility expert Scott Sonnon. This knee-circling exercise not only frees the muscles, tendons and ligaments around the knee joint, but it also frees the hips. HOW TO DO IT: Begin standing. Bend one knee up so that your thigh is parallel to the floor. Hold on to a chair or ledge for balance if necessary. Extend your leg straight out in front of you. Circle at the knee as you bring the heel to the outside of your hip, through to starting position, then toward your opposite inner thigh and back around to the extended position. P...
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​Hip mobility may help provide relief from low-back pain. A 2011 study from the Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy reports that more than 60 percent of subjects reported improvements in chronic low-back pain after performing hip-mobility exercises. If the hips are not mobile, the body destabilizes the lower back or knees to compensate for the lost range-of-motion potential. "The high degree of lower-back pain and injuries and knee strain correlate directly to hip immobility -- particularly from sustained sedentary seated lifestyle behaviors," says restorative mobility expert Scott Sonn...
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This traditional yoga pose is excellent for opening up the thoracic spine and lubricating the discs. "If your thoracic spine is locked up, you will likely experience problems in the cervical and lumbar spine as well. When your spine is out of alignment, neurological issues may arise. "If you're not firing neurologically, "you're going to create imbalances and movement-pattern problems. You've got to correct the neurological and then stabilize the structure of the spine." HOW TO DO IT: Begin on your hands and knees in a neutral-spine position. Inhale as you arch your back and tilt you...
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Every time you land, something has to absorb the shock. The muscles, tendons and ligaments aren't designed to do it all. You want the discs throughout the lumbar spine to absorb the shock. If something is jammed in the spine, that weight load is going to be translated to the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Over time, it leads to sprains, strains, knee and low-back pain," says chiropractor Natacha Nelson. Lubricate your pelvic joints and lumbar spine with pelvic circles. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your hands on your hips. Keep your feet planted and core contracted...
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​Progressive stretching is the best way to treat post-surgery joint stiffness. You can prevent the need for surgery with daily mobility drills. HOW TO DO IT: Hinge forward at the hips just slightly while maintaining a flat back. Draw your elbows along the sides of your ribcage, with your arms forming a 90-degree angle. Make fists with your hands. Extend your arms back behind you, palms facing each other. In one fluid motion, swoop your arms around to the front as you internally rotate your arms to bring the backside of your hands together. Then externally rotate the arms and pull back to pinch...
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​The ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body, but due to improper posture, motion can deteriorate over time. "Ergonomics is not enough. You must get the movement in the joints," Practicing proper posture in the workplace and taking breaks to get your joints moving as well as keeping them hydrated. This classic swim stroke counteracts the negative effects of slouching shoulders. HOW TO DO IT: Keep your arms straight and elbows locked as you lift one arm straight out in front of you and slowly circle it backwards. Try to avoid rotating the torso as you do...
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​Today's digital culture means hours spent in front of the computer screen or staring down at a smartphone and can create postural deficiencies like forward-head posture, explains chiropractor Robert Bates. Forward-head posture causes stiffness in the joints in the cervical spine and elongates the muscles at the back of the neck and shoulders, creating knots and tension. Neck circles are a simple and effective exercise for releasing that tension. HOW TO DO IT: Begin with proper posture: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-distance apart, a slight bend in the knees, navel drawn in, hips tucked u...
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​Stretching and strength training are good for your muscles and cardiovascular exercise is good for your heart, but what about your joints? Joints, along with bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and cartilage, form the musculoskeletal system that allows us to walk, run, jump and move in whatever way we want. And joints rely on movement to keep them functioning properly. Unlike muscles, joints have no direct blood supply. "If there's no motion in the joint it will degenerate -- that's a law,"  Joints rely on synovial fluid to "wash" away waste products that build up and compromise the integ...
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