Core Exercises 101

core exercisesThe abdominal core is much more than just your six-pack abs. The cores is actually the network of muscles that is responsible for supporting, stabilizing and moving the torso.

A strong core can give you more than just a flattering waistline.  A properly trained core can prevent back pain, protect your spine from injury, improve your posture and athleticism.

Crunches alone will not give you a strong core.  Crunches focus on the muscles in your core that preform forward spinal flexion, or bending forward from the spine. A well balanced core strengthening program should include several different movement patterns and muscles.

4 core exercises

The primary job of the core is to hold your torso upright and stabilize the spine. The plank will train your core to stabilize the spine while sculpting the abdominal muscles.

 Plank

  1. Lie on you stomach and forearms with your elbows beneath your shoulders.
  2. Exhale, brace your core, and make your legs ridged as you lift your weight off the ground so that you are supporting yourself on your forearms and toes.
  3. Hold this position with a neutral spine, do not let your torso and hips sag toward the ground or stick your butt in the air.
  4. Start with four 15 second holds, and work toward one 90 second hold

Several core muscles like the oblique abdominal muscles and hip rotators are responsible for resisting rotational forces that are placed on the body.  The Pallof press is an excellent anti-rotation exercise.

Band resisted pallof press

  1. Affix a resistance band to an immovable object at chest level.
  2. Stand inline with the band so that your body is parallel to the anchor point.
  3. Hold the band with both hands and center it on your chest. Do not allow the band to rotate your upper body.
  4. Exhale, push the band straight out in front of you, brace your core and glutes to resist the urge to rotate.
  5. Hold it in front for 3 seconds, then return the band to your chest.
  6. Do 10-15 before switching sides.

The glutes are part of your core too! The glutes extend the hips and thus they have a role in the positioning of your spine and torso. The single-leg hip bridge is an excellent exercise for developing glute strength.

Single-leg hip bridge

  1. Lie on your back. Bend the right knee and place the foot on the ground. Extend the left leg straight out in front of the body and hold the foot off the ground. Extend your arms along your body.
  2. Exhale, press evenly into the right foot, squeeze the right and left glutes as you lift your pelvis off the ground, until your hips are fully extend.
  3. Do not arch your back, keep your core engaged and contract the glutes throughout the movement.
  4. Keep your pelvis level for the duration of the exercise.
  5. Hold for 3 seconds at the top, lower down with control.
  6. Do 10-15 repetitions then switch legs.

The Turkish get-up is a demanding and complex exercise that works nearly every aspect of core strength.  Traditionally, the Turkish get-up is performed with a kettlebell but it is best to first learn this challenging exercise without weight.

Bodyweight Turkish get up

  1. Lie on your back on the ground and extent the right arm up so that the wrist is above the shoulder.
  2. Bend the right knee so that the foot is flat on the ground and angled outward, close to right hip.  Keep the left leg straight.
  3. Raise right shoulder off of floor by rolling onto left elbow.
  4. Sit up while pushing off on floor with left arm until arm is straight.
  5. Lift hip off of floor and pull left leg under the body.
  6. Swing the left leg underneath your body so that the left knee is on the ground, and directly below the left hip.
  7. Brace the core and bring your torso upright so that your shoulders are directly above the hips.
  8. Stand up by extending the legs and placing the rear leg next to forward leg.


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