Success in the gym has come from regularly training the bigger exercises such as the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, chin-up and row. Movement patterns are always constant, many people are concerned with getting the perfect six-pack which does not come from hundreds of crunches by the way but from a good diet, this is missing the point.
The core training exercises have their place if done correctly, core strength and stability are key players when it comes to the performance in big lifts. If you have a weak trunk, you will not be able to lift much weight over your head, so it is good to build the core with accessory abdominal movements.
Here are six core exercises that you can use regularly to constantly challenge you and give you an effective workout.
Exercise One: Suspension Rollout
2-3 sets of 8-12 reps.
The anterior core stability challenge of rollouts in general is great, but by using the suspension system you can use your feet instead of your knees. This promotes full body tension. Full body tension is important to other lifts like the overhead press, deadlifts and squats.
Begin on your toes and lean forwards with hands in your straps right below your shoulders. Now reach your hands forwards until your body feels like it is beginning to sag or you feel like you cannot return to the start position. Pause for a moment and then return to the start position.
Do not allow your hips to bend or the hands to return beyond your shoulders. To increase the difficulty, lower the straps and move so your body is parallel to the floor.
Squeeze your glutes as hard as possible during the movement to keep your body in the correct position.
Exercise Two: Plank To Opposite Raise
2 – 3 sets of 45 – 60 seconds.
Planks are one of the best core stability exercises out there and once mastered they can seem pretty pedestrian. Adding in a dynamic component to this anti-extension exercise can make it more difficult as it then requires anti-rotation work.
Begin in a normal plank position, reach a hand out in front of your body and raise the opposite leg 1 – 2 inches from the ground. Hold for 45-60 seconds, return to the start position and repeat with the other limbs. Squeeze your glutes, quads and core to maintain tension, start with shorter work periods if you cannot hold the position very long.
Exercise 3: Chain Resisted Lateral Crawl
2 – 3 sets of 10-15 steps per side.
Crawls are a great exercise group as they really work core stability and put shoulders and hips in a movement pattern that most people will not have used since childhood. Going back to these fundamental patterns is good for the joints and motor programming, adding in a lateral movement to crawls can make them more challenging.
Using chain s for resistance will put a lot of demand on your core and leave the shoulders burning.
Start out in a push-up position with a chain connected to a dip belt at your waist. Cross the back hand over the front hand whilst stepping sideways with your lead foot, be sure to change directions.
Keep the whole body neutral by looking down, resist the urge to move your neck.
Exercise 4: Cross Carry
2 – 3 sets of 20 – 30 steps per side.
This is a farmer’s carry taken to the next level. This movement promotes core strength via anti-extension and anti-flexion, this is also great as it is performed standing, this is also how core muscles are used naturally.
Start by holding a kettlebell in each hand, one should be 2-3 times lighter than the other. Push the lighter one above your head in the bottoms-up position, the heavier one should be held at your side like you would hold a suitcase. Walk forwards whilst maintaining an upright position, after 20 – 30 steps swap the kettlebells around and walk back holding the lighter kettlebell in your other hand above your head.
Walk normally trying not to lean one way or the other so as to keep a vertical spine.
Exercise 5: Sliding Inchworm
2 – 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps.
A reverse crunch variation with a walk out, this combo will work the entire anterior core which includes the upper and lower abs, this will also blast your shoulders whilst crawling too.
Start in a push-up position with your feet on something able to glide along the floor. Push your hips to the ceiling, pulling your toes to your hands. Once the hips are up as high as they can go without changing spine alignment or placing too much tension on your hamstrings, walk your hands out to return to the starting position. Add a push-up at the bottom to make it harder.
To get the full effect of the reverse crunch, move your hips up by pushing your toes to the floor.
Exercise 6: Wide-Stance Rope Rotation
2 – 3 sets of 10 – 15 reps per side.
Any good core program would feel empty without some oblique work, this exercise improves overall core stability and really hits this area.
Stand to the side of a cable stack with your feet much wider set than your shoulder width and the rope attachment should be at shoulder height. Keep your arms straight and pull the rope across your body and return it under full control, the spine should remain vertical during this process.
Keep the hips as still as possible whilst doing this exercise, when you rotate the hips, the obliques are no longer doing the heavy lifting.
These are some of the best core exercises I have ever used when it comes to improving performance.