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Build Strength and Work Your Core with Easy Exercises You Can Do at Home

A little bit of time, and a little bit of space go a long way with these exercises

A woman holds a high plank position

During these challenging times, it can be tricky to stay active, and yet it's key to our overall well-being. The good news is that healthy activity doesn't require investing in equipment or belonging to a gym. To get some ideas for simple at-home exercises and stretches, we asked Joanna Marra, CAA Club Group’s Wellness Consultant (who is also a clinical exercise physiologist and certified fitness instructor), and Jennifer Lau, a personal trainer and co-owner of Fit Squad, a Toronto gym. Here’s what they suggest, along with a few modified options.

Build strength with bodyweight squats

An illustration shows how to do squats properly

Start by standing with your feet shoulder-to-hip-width apart. With your feet slightly turned out, slowly lower your body until your hips are below your knees. Keep your weight evenly distributed and ensure your knees stay wide—don’t let them rotate inwards. Throughout the movement, keep your torso upright by bracing through your abdominal muscles and look forward (not down). Return to your starting position by pushing your weight into your heels, squeezing your glutes and exhaling on the way up. Do this eight to 10 times, for a total of three sets.

Improve stability with reverse lunges

An illustration shows how to do reverse lunges properly

Start in a standing position, step your right foot back and gently touch your knee to the floor. Keeping your weight on the left foot, bring your right foot back, to return back to a standing position. Repeat the movement using your other leg. Do this eight to 10 times, for a total of three sets.

Work your core with the torsion control plank

An illustration shows how to do the torsion control plank

Start in a high plank position—stretched out flat on your hands and toes—with your shoulders stacked over your palms and feet shoulder width apart. Brace your core, squeeze your glutes and flex your quads. Then lift your right hand to tap either your left shoulder, elbow or wrist, depending on your difficulty level. Try to keep your hips stable as you continue to tap your opposite hand to your opposite shoulder. Do this eight to 10 times, for a total of three sets.

Beginners can modify this to simply holding an elbow plank for 20 seconds, then increasing that time to 30, then 40 seconds as you build strength over time. To modify this even further, do the plank with your knees on the ground, being sure to keep your spine and neck straight.

Try the ‘Superman’ to develop support for your lower back

An illustration shows how to do the "Superman" hold

Lie on your stomach with your arms stretched out in front and legs hip-width apart. Raise your arms and legs a few inches off the ground, and keep your head looking at the floor. Hold this position for five seconds, then lower your arms and legs. To modify, try lifting your left arm and right leg together, then switch sides. Do this for eight to 10 reps, for a total of three sets.

Include time to stretch out tense muscles

An illustration shows examples of different types of stretches 

To stretch your chest, from sitting or standing, reach both arms behind your back, if possible clasp the palms together to open up through the chest (see top left diagram). To modify, bring your palms behind your back as if you were holding a beach ball and open through the chest as much as possible. Hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat three to five times.

To stretch the backside of the body, try the forward fold (see top right and bottom right diagrams). Place your feet about hip-width apart and slightly bend the knees. Keeping your spine straight, bend your upper body forward, stopping at your waist. You should feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Once you are comfortable here, fold as far forward as you can. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

To loosen the hip flexors, start in a standing position with your feet together. Step your right foot back, keeping the right leg straight and engage the right glute (see bottom left diagram). Hold on to something stable for support if needed. To deepen the stretch reach both arms up above your head. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

To stretch tense shoulders, from sitting or standing, interlace your fingers in front of your body and push your palms away from you. Feel the stretch in between the shoulder blades. Hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat three to five times.

Get more with CAA

Did you know CAA Members get special offers on fitness essentials from well.ca, The Source, The Bay and Puma? Go to caasco.com/rewards to learn more.

Image credit: iStock.com/fizkes

Illustration credit: Cindy Lubinic