Login | December 18, 2018

Core exercises

Pete’s World

Published: November 13, 2017

This week I’ll discuss several great exercises that truly engage the “core” as opposed to just the abdominal region, which due to vanity garners far too much attention in the gym.

So here’s four bonafide core exercises that integrate well into any workout routine: the Curl-Up, Alternating Quadruped, Lateral Bridge, and Superman.

Exercise #1 - Basic Curl-Up. Similar to the traditional crunch, this exercise activates the rectus abdominis and the internal and external obliques. I like this sit-up version because it limits hip flexor activation, which tends to dilute the activation of the aforementioned muscle groups - as happens in traditional sit-ups.

What’s more, and maybe even more important, is the fact that curl-ups minimize the spinal stresses associated with traditional sit-ups.

Begin by lying on your back with knees bent, feet and arms flat on the floor, with hands supporting the low back (underneath the lumbar area). Have your chin tucked in towards the neck and brace your abdominal muscles. To perform the exercise raise your head and shoulders several inches off the floor - no more.

Make sure you’re just contracting the abdominal muscles such that the lower back isn’t pushing into your hands. Hold the top position for 2-3 seconds, then slowly lower back to the floor. Do 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Exercise #2 - Alternating Quadruped. Here you’ll be concentrating more on activating the back extensors without loading the spine. Starting position is on all fours. Execute the exercise by raising and extending one arm in front of you while simultaneously raising and extending the opposing side leg. Finish position is when both appendages are fully extended and parallel with the floor. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position in a controlled manner. Repeat on the opposite side.

Make sure to proceed with slow, deliberate movements, without letting the hips hike or rock. And remember to contract your abdominal muscles so as to maintain a straight back throughout the movement. If skeptical of your technique, you may want to use a mirror. 

Hold the finish position for 2-3 seconds, and do 10 repetitions per side. When you get stronger and more proficient add more repetitions and longer finish position times.

Exercise #3 - The Lateral Bridge. Also known as the Side Plank, this exercise activates the internal and external obliques, areas that are often neglected in customary core workouts. And a wonderful side benefit to this exercise is that it helps to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder joint.

Begin on your side with an elbow on the ground and under the shoulder. Orient the forearm on the ground perpendicular to your body. Stack the feet one on top of the other and keep the body straight.

Begin by pushing your hip off the ground, creating a straight line from the ankle through the shoulder. Keep your head in line with your spine and your body rigid from head to toe.

Hold the top position 15-60 seconds while maintaining that straight alignment. Lower yourself then switch to the opposite side.

You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by extending and raising your free arm overhead, while at the same time lifting your top leg several inches above the planted leg.

If you experience shoulder pain then try the exercise with your knees bent, and/or add a soft foam pad under the forearm/elbow. 

Exercise #4 - The Superman. I love this exercise because it activates the entire back, which again, is an essential component of the core. Start by lying on your stomach with your arms and legs extended such that you resemble Superman in mid flight. You can lift both of your arms and legs at the same time, or you can alternate opposite arm-leg pairs concurrently. However you choose, make sure to focus on extending the limbs

Adding these four exercises to your routine will help ensure that you’re truly working core muscle groups. What’s more, these exercises prevent the unwanted spinal stresses which are common when performing traditional abdominal exercises.

As you can see, core training isn’t just a fancy term for toning your abs. True core training is multifaceted, and works the front, sides, and back of the body - safely. And that’s the core truth.