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4 balancing exercises for a more muscular middle

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Follow these simple steps to strengthen your core.

Toe Raise

How to do it: Stand barefoot, lightly holding on to the back of a chair. With your shoulders back and down and your abdominals pulled in, slowly lift your heels so that your body weight is on the balls of your feet, pause at the top, then slowly lower. Repeat 8 to 15 times.

What it does: This challenges your core to hold you steady as you move vertically. Bonus: It also strengthens your calves.

Make it harder: Try holding on with just the tips of your fingertips, then try it without holding on at all. Mastered that? Close your eyes and repeat the exercise.

Ball Sit

How to do it: Sit on a large stability ball, with your arms straight out in a T, feet flat on the floor, abdominals engaged, and spine tall. Lift your right knee, letting your right foot dangle an inch or two off the floor. Build up to holding this position for 20 to 30 seconds, trying not to wobble while you maintain the pose. Switch legs and repeat for one set. Do two sets total.

What it does: As you remove one point of contact with the floor, your body has to work to keep the ball from rolling around underneath you, which strengthens your core.

Make it harder: Do the move as above, but lift your arms straight overhead in line with your body, palms facing forward. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Rest, then repeat for one set. Do two sets total.
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Ballet Balance

How to do it: Stand next to a chair with your left hand on it, right hand on hip, and toes of your right foot pointing straight ahead. Raise your right leg so that the knee is bent at almost 90 degrees. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Tighten your buttocks and rotate your knee out to the right; keep hips facing forward. Hold for a count of five. Return to the starting position and repeat five more times. Switch legs.

What it does: The added motion of the leg swinging out to the side forces you to activate your core and gluteals.

Make it harder: Add even more motion. As you lift your leg forward, extend and raise your arm on the same side so that it’s parallel to the floor and directly over your knee. As you rotate your knee out to the side, let your arm follow, keeping it in line with the knee.

Single Leg Bend

How to do it: Stand barefoot next to a chair with your left hand on its back and your right arm extending out to the side, palm down. Lift your right thigh till the knee is bent at nearly 90 degrees; point your toes. Bend your left leg and slowly sink down, keeping your back straight. Push up, slowly straightening the left leg to the starting position. Repeat five times, then switch legs.

What it does: As you work to stay balanced throughout the up-and-down bending motion, you also strengthen your core, rear end, and thighs.

Make it harder:
After you bend your knee and sink down, extend your right leg forward, straight, keeping your toes pointed and your foot a few inches off the floor. Pause, then return to the starting position.