There is a difference between training your core vs. training your abs for a six pack. We covered this last week. If you missed it don’t worry I have your back, you can catch up here.
If you couldn’t tell, I’m a huge fan of training the functionality of our core over just training for aesthetically pleasing abs.
A strong core can help alleviate a lot of pain people have along with preventing many common injuries.
But how do we train our core properly to do it’s job right? Well stick around my friend because today I am going to share with you my 10 favorite exercises to train your core.
It’s hard for me to pick just 10 movements because I honestly believe that every exercise is a core exercise.
Every movement we make requires us to activate our core to some degree. If we didn’t we would just flop over like a fish anytime we tried to move.
When training our core we need to work it a few ways. We need to work flexion and extension (folding and unfolding), stabilization (remain up right/bracing), anti-rotation, and rotation.
I know it can get confusing because we are working a lot of opposite movements, but that is how complex and important our core is.
Our core needs to be able to perform all those movements to help us move properly and protect the spine.
I don’t want to end up like Chris Jericho reading the 1000 moves of Dean Malenko, here is my condensed list of the 10 best exercises you should do to train your core.
I love planks. They are the most simple exercise to strengthen the stability of our core and teach us what perfect posture feels like.
I feel it is a pre-requisite for all movement.
If done right the plank is a total body exercise incorporating not only our abs, but our glutes, back, quads, shoulders, and chest, just to name a few.
The fun is not over once you mastered the plank.
We can progress the plank by doing things like adding movement with the arms and legs (marches, plank jacks, renegade rows, spider mans, saw planks, T-drill, push ups, shoulder taps, etc.), side planks, 3 point planks, and so much more.
Dead bug, bird dog, & Crawls
I love using dead bugs and bird dogs to teach how the core flexes and extends.
The dead bug works on the flexion (bringing everything in).
The bird dog teaches extension and hip and core stability.
The bird dog has us work our limbs contra-laterally (opposite arm/opposite leg). This forces us to balance on one knee (hip stability) while we extend the opposite leg and extend the arm on the other side away from each other. This provides for some nice anti-rotational core strength.
Ever hear that you need to crawl before you can walk? Well they were right.
Once we mastered the dead bug and bird dog we can put the two together and begin to crawl.
Crawling teaches us how to engage the core and stabilize as we move. It is also great for stability in the hip and shoulders.
Crawling is great for core work, strength, and conditioning. I love crawling forwards, backwards, and even side to side.
The different directions will help to hit the core, shoulders and hips in a variety of ways.
Anything Over head
Any time we put something overhead we force our core to engage. If our core did not engage we would collapse like a house of cards under the weight.
That is what makes things like over head squats so hard.
One of my favorite things to do is to perform single side press work. This is great for not only engaging the core properly, but starts to incorporate anti-rotational bracing.
Breaching our core as we go over head keeps us strong, efficient, and safe so we stay up right and dont lean over and drop the weight, or injure ourselves.
Knee tucks, leg raises, pikes, marches all of these would fall under the “tuck” category. These are great for working the lower abs and deep hip flexor muscles.
I love using floor sliders or adding mini bands to these movements.
Let’s get this out of the way, I hate sit ups. That is why I never program them.
The truth is people just don’t do them right. They use their hip muscles and low back muscles to get them off the ground.
With crunches I can put you in a position where I can teach you to brace your core properly and not use your lower back and hips to help you.
The two ways I like to do this is with 90/90 crunches and vertical crunches. We can even build off those into sprinter crunches, v ups, and even twisting vertical crunches.
Single arm rows
Performing dynamic single arm rows is one of my favorite ways to work in rotational work to hit the obliques.
I use a kettlebell, resistance bands or TRX straps to get these done. These are great for performance as it can mimic how the core moves when we run.
Med balls are great for the core. We can slam them to work flexion, We can do rainbows (side slam) and hit our hips and obliques, and we can throw them a variety of ways which requires us to brace to protect the spine, and to help link our hips and upper body together to generate power.
Throws are amazing because we can work in all directions letting us hit our core from all angles. We can throw med balls forward, backwards, sideways, low to high, high to low, and even diagonally.
People have even made games out of throws such as med ball volley ball and med ball tennis. See core work is fun 😉
What more can I say about carries. I love them. They do so much good for us.
There are so many way to do carries and each object and hold variation something unique.
Try these out for your self. Hold your object by your sides, cradled in your arms, on your back, rack position, waiters position, over head, or to make things extra spicy try bottoms up carries with a kettle bell.
You can even play with the weight balance to challenge your anti-rotational muscles (weight only on one side or with unequal weights in both).
All of these ways of carrying will challenge your stability and anti rotation like you wouldn’t believe. Also like crawls they are a great way to build your conditioning up.
Powerful extension of the abs and hips. Also if you fight the force and the end of the extension of the swing (right before the bell comes down) it really forces the core to work hard.
Great anti-rotational exercise that doesn’t look hard, but leave me in a pile of sweat every time.
Set up a resistance band, or cable machine shoulder height, twist until hands are in line with your chest, and hold.
Start standing and then as your core gets stronger and the holds become easier start to decrease your base. Go from standing to kneeling on both knees, then kneeling on one knee.
The same can be done with movement. Go from holding with the arms out stretched to, adding in an up and down movement with your straight arms, or try pulling the band in to the chest and pressing it back out, and the most spicy one would be small circles with your arms stretched out.
All of these variations will make your core scream. Just Remember work both sides.
Do you have any favorite core exercises you would like to share? Let us know in the comments below.
Also click this link to download my free guideon how to build your very own affordable home gym.