Strengthen your core with exercises you can do at home using only a paper plate

Editor’s note: Known as the “Mobility Maker,” Dana Santas is a board-certified professional sports strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach and the author of Practical Solutions for Back Pain Relief.


With spring almost a month away, the persistent wintry weather and shorter days with less sunlight could take a toll on your motivation to get outside and exercise. Understandably, you might be inclined to skip the gym to stay cozy indoors. But don’t let the winter blues stop you from moving your body!

By getting creative, you can get the exercise you need at home to not only improve your physical health, but also to increase the brain’s feel-good chemicals serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine to help you get through this doldrums .

There are many ways to train quickly and easily from the comfort of your own home – without expensive fitness equipment. With a little ingenuity, broomsticks, backpacks, and other everyday household items can serve as useful tools during your workout. If you have access to stairs, there are numerous exercises you can do using just two flights of stairs. Even a paper plate can be used for the exercise.

That’s right, just a single paper plate can provide all the tools needed for a surprisingly challenging full-body workout that strengthens your core and improves your balance. It might sound far fetched, so I’ve outlined the exercises below and included an instructional video at the top of this article so you can try it yourself.

Important Note: Before beginning any new exercise program, consult your doctor. Stop immediately if you feel pain.

While focusing on good form and breathing well, perform eight to ten repetitions of each exercise on each side of your body. The instability of the paper plate is the challenge. In any exercise, the side of your body that isn’t using the paper plate is the stabilizing side, so that side will feel the burn as you work harder to maintain balance.

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If you’re struggling with strength or balance limitations, begin practicing the movements using the suggested modifications for each exercise.

Place one foot on the paper plate and slide that leg back into a lunge position, bending your knee to gently tap it to the floor if possible. The front leg should also bend into a lunge position, with your knee aligned over your ankle.

In the backward lunge, using the paper plate creates instability and forces the supporting leg and abdominal muscles to work hard to maintain balance.

Use the strength of your core and stabilizing front leg to return to standing. This is a repeat. Go through all the reps on one side, then repeat on the other side.

How to Change: Decrease how far you slide backwards and put a hand on a wall if balance is an issue.

From a standing position, place one foot on the paper plate and perform a side lunge by sliding your foot to the side while half squatting with the opposite leg. Keep your chest up and try not to lean forward too much.

In a side lunge, focus on the supporting leg that is stabilizing your movements and keep your chest up.

Use the strength of your core and stabilizing leg to return to standing. Go through all the reps on one side, then repeat on the other side.

Modification: If you’re not strong enough to hold the half-squat position, you can place a chair under your hips that you can lean back on while pushing your opposite leg out. Put a hand against a wall if you need help with balance.

From a plank position on the floor with your feet slightly more than hip-width apart to help counterbalance, place one of your hands on the paper plate. Maintaining a strong core and neutral spine, make circles with the plate on the floor.

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From a plank position, use the plate to do circles on the floor while maintaining a strong core and neutral spine.

Walk as far as your shoulder mobility allows while still being able to stabilize. After making four circles in one direction, go the other direction for another four circles. Switch to the other side and repeat the pattern of four circles in each direction.

How to change: When you feel your back arching, get on your knees to make it a little easier to engage your core and maintain a neutral spine.

From a plank position with slightly wider feet as mentioned above, place the toes of one foot on the paper plate. Just like with the shoulder circles, use your hip mobility to draw circles with your foot.

Use your hip mobility to draw circles with your foot - just like you did with the shoulder circles.

Make four circles in one direction and four in the other direction, then repeat with the other leg.

How to Change: You can lower your stabilizing leg to the knee if you’re having trouble maintaining a neutral spine. If you’re having trouble executing a circular motion, try a mountaineering forward-backward motion instead.

Try a mountaineering back-and-forth motion if you're having trouble making a circular motion.

Depending on your current fitness level and how you feel doing these exercises, do the four exercises one after the other for three to five rounds. You’ll be surprised how exhausted you can get just using a paper plate! Be sure to take short breaks between rounds to drink some water and catch your breath.

To help you beat the winter blues and strengthen your body — especially your core — I recommend doing this workout a few times a week. When spring arrives, look for more ways to get outside.

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