3 Killer Exercises for the Core

Posted February 18, 2011 by

The core has become somewhat of a “trendy” term in the fitness industry lately, but with good reason. The core is critically-important to the health of your body. In addition to being the foundation from which all bodily movement takes place, the core is also responsible for maintaining correct posture, which helps to avoid many of the painful postural disorders we often experience later in life if we don’t pay attention to our core strength. Finally, a strong core can help prevent acute injuries such as inguinal hernias, slipped discs, etc.

It’s important to note that the core is NOT just another term for “abs.” The abdominal muscles—the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, internal obliques and external obliques—make up only part of the core. The muscles of the lower/mid back—the multifidus, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi and a bunch of other smaller muscles—as well as the pelvic floor muscles and diaphragm, all make up what is referred to as the “core.” It is important to focus equally on all these muscles in order to maintain optimal core strength and balance.

Below I’ve included three of my favorite exercises to strengthen my clients’ cores. Feel free to try them out for yourself and see how sore you feel the next day, perhaps in places you didn’t even know you had muscles!

Rock-Hard Core Exercise #1: Plank – Demonstration

The plank is by far and large the best core builder available. It works all of the muscles very effectively, and can be done without any equipment. To perform, simple lay on the floor with your arms under your chest, hands pointing forward. Come up so that you are only resting on your toes and your forearms, with your hands flat on the ground, similar to how the Great Sphinx of Giza has its arms situated. Make sure your head is neutral and that your hips are in line with your shoulders and ankles—don’t raise your butt in the air or sink your hips to the floor, as this greatly limits the effectiveness of the exercise. Hold for at least 30 seconds, working up to 90 seconds total.

Rock-Hard Core Exercise #2: Superman – Demonstration

Most people focus on the abs and ignore the lower back, even though the majority of us experience much more pain in the lower back than just about any other place on our body! This exercise is a great way to target the entire back, with a special emphasis on the lower back. After performing this exercise regularly, you will notice a significant decrease in back pain as well as increased flexibility. Start by lying on your stomach with your arms extended straight in front of you. Tighten the abs and raise both your legs and your arms/shoulders/head off of the ground, focusing on using the muscles of the lower back and glutes to perform the movement. Make sure to keep the head neutral throughout the movement.

Rock-Hard Core Exercise #3: Pallof Press – Demonstration

The final exercise is the Pallof press. This exercise is great for targeting the obliques. Start by positioning yourself perpendicular to a cable machine, or to a resistance band that is secured on something. Hold the handle in the middle of the chest. Press the handle straight out, away from your body, while keeping the rest of the body immobile. Keep the abs tight and hold this position for at least 30 seconds, working up to 90 seconds. Bring the handle back to the chest, rest for 10 seconds and repeat one or two more times. Turn around and repeat on the opposite side.

Perform this circuit 2-3 times, 3x per week and you should see a big improvement in core strength and postural alignment within a few weeks!

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