“I have people do a lot of closed-eye exercises when it’s safe,” says Michiel. Body movements.
To help clients engage their core, Michiel has them press their hands on their stomachs and push against it by squeezing their muscles. Then, upon release, he asks them to place their hands lightly on the shirt and repeat that engagement motion, but without hand pressure. When clients can feel their shirt loosen, she says they know they’ve found their core.
A senior coach since 2006, today Michelle runs a network of over 30 coaches who work with seniors in Southern California. He himself is active. A love of dance and movement has always inspired her, and music is a big part of her training routine for herself and her clients.
But recently he started focusing specifically on core work to relieve back pain and says he’s seen incredible results. Key to this success was letting go of the idea of having a “flat stomach,” which she says is something that comes from genetics, not exercise. Instead of working those six-pack muscles through movements like sit-ups, he focuses on core muscles in the core, lower and side.
“We’re not looking for six packs when we grow up,” says Michiel. “The lower abdominal muscles, which are near your belly button, are the ones that relate directly to your lumbar spine.”
In addition to fighting back pain, Michelle says she applies this type of core work to herself and her clients to improve balance and prevent falls.
“Balance is the most important thing,” says Michiel. “Imagine someone is walking their dog and their dog pulls them. If you have good core strength, you can straighten yourself up without tripping or falling.”
To build this body awareness and strengthen these muscles, Michelle likes to do standing ab exercises. They are simple, functional and don’t need to get on the floor While he underscores that you can work your abs “just by thinking about them” and squeezing them, he says, some resistance will help improve core strength.
Here’s how to do Lori Michiel’s go-to standing core exercise for seniors
- Stand up straight, and hold a single dumbbell in your hands in front of your hips with straight arms. The weight should be light – the goal is to use it to engage your abs, not challenge your shoulders and arms.
- With mostly straight arms (a slight bend in the elbows is fine), raise the dumbbell straight out in front of you, to chest height. Make sure not to go above the shoulder.
- As you raise your arms, squeeze in your abs.
- Lower your arms and release your abs.
- Repeat 10 to 20 times.
Add some rotation: For an added challenge, instead of lowering your dumbbells straight up and down, twist to one side as you raise and lower back to center. This will help engage your obliques on the side of your torso.
Play with the tempo: Michelle suggests mixing up the pace of your exercises. For example, try raising the dumbbell slowly (for three seconds) and then quickly lowering it, or vice versa.
For more sustained abs action, check out this 10-minute workout.