Having a nice set of abs does not come from a thousand sit-ups or crunches. While traditional core exercises can play a (small) role in developing an aesthetically pleasing mid-section, abdominal definition is the result of proper nutrition, not core work. If you want those muscles to show, pay attention to what you eat.
With that in mind, it’s important to know the primary function of your core musculature — stabilize and prevent unnecessary movements.
Here are my top five core exercises to build a solid core.
These are one of those “so simple, yet so effective” exercises. I’ve done this in the past, but I’ve never truly appreciated it until recently. The action is like that of a saw, with a forward and back motion coming from the shoulders. Interestingly, I’ve found this to be so much more effective than rollouts on the stability ball, for two reasons:
- Most notably, less complaints of back pain (provided you do them correctly).
- There were some cases where my clients would have a tendency to use their triceps with stability ball rollouts.
You can easily progress this by going further back. But beware, this exercise is not for the faint of heart. You’ll really feel them in your abs.
It’s important to note that to execute this movement properly (and with most core exercises), you have to brace your core and squeeze your glutes.
2. TRX Fallout
This is very much like an ab wheel rollout because you’re essentially engaging your anterior core to resist extension. Although, I’m more partial to this exercise because not everyone has access to an ab wheel, and it’s a much easier set up. The good thing about the TRX Fallout is that it can be easily regressed or progressed by adjusting the length of the straps, and walking in front or behind the anchor (attachment point).
To increase the difficulty, simply set up behind the anchor. To make it easier, set up in front of the anchor. Avoid excessive arching of the lower back by squeezing your glutes and bracing your core. It should be a straight line from your head to your feet.
3. Suitcase Carry
Generally, those with limited hip mobility are folks that experience chronic lower back pain. A basic core exercise such as the side plank is a simple, yet effective way to develop the lateral stabilizers — thus, reducing stiffness and/or pain of the lower back while improving hip mobility. To be honest though, side planks can be a bit boring.
To kick it up a notch, the suitcase carry does a great job of working your lateral core and grip strength. Think of it as a loaded dynamic version of the side plank. You’re basically walking with a load (preferably a kettlebell) in one hand.
The main objective here is to stay upright with no lean and keeping your shoulders leveled.
4. Shoulder Touch Push-ups
Integrating different push-up variations are one of the best ways to strengthen your core. There’s a variety of ways you can go about it. For simplicity’s sake, though, we’ll cover Shoulder Touch Push-ups. You’re killing two birds with one stone. Here’s why: there’s obviously a tremendous amount of anterior core engagement in the push-up position. Adding in a unilateral component such as this in particular challenges core rotary stability. Put simply, it fries your core from two planes of motion — trust me, that’s a good thing.
If you want to make it harder, try performing it on a medicine ball.
5. Reverse Plank Walks
Traditionally, doing this in a forward fashion bothered some of my clients wrists, so a tidbit I picked up from Coach Ben Bruno was to do them in reverse. Adding a mini-band solves the issue of sagging and/or shifting of the hips, which maintains anterior core stress.
One way of making these harder is to deliberately make larger excursions as you move backwards.
I’ve provided you with a couple of my favorite core exercises. These movements will strengthen the muscles surrounding the hips and spine. Thus, allowing you to move and perform better. While I’m of the belief that you can build a pretty solid core with some good ol’ fashion heavy lifting, you still have to throw in some additional core work. Give each of them a try and let me know how it goes.
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