Injury prevention, posture improvement, increased strength… these are all key reasons why it’s important to train your core. But did you know that strengthening your core involves more than just training your abs? Here are the three most effective core strengthening exercises, no Situps in sight.
Your core is more than your abs
Everyone likes a six-pack and one of the most common misconceptions out there is that doing hundreds of Situps is a surefire way to washboard abs. While this will most likely lead to increased definition over time, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your abdominal muscles will be strong and stable. From a functional perspective, the muscular definition of the abdominals is secondary to their ability to stabilize your spine and to transfer force throughout your body.
Your core musculature is composed of the muscles around the spine, shoulder blades, lower back and stomach, forming a complex system of slings across your body. Traditional core exercises like Situps and Crunches only target a single muscle: namely the rectus abdominis, commonly referred to as the abs. Hence, you should look further afield for a more rounded core strengthening experience.
It’s also very important to keep the agonist and antagonist muscles balanced: ab strengthening exercises should ideally be accompanied by exercises that work on strengthening the lower back muscles.
Planks - Anti-Extension
A lot of what the core does is to resist force and flexion. The most well-known exercises to resist flexion (“anti-flexion”) are plank variations; the classic front plank, for example, trains you to resist unnecessary hyperextension of your spine.
To perform a plank, get down on the ground, put your forearms on the floor so that your elbows are a little in front of your shoulders and extend your legs behind you. Keep your body rigid by tensing your abs, pulling your shoulder blades together and straightening your knees.
Arm & Leg Lifts - Anti-Rotation
Another way to train your core stability is to consider anti-rotation exercises like Arm & Leg Lifts. Kneel on the ground, put your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Now tense your abdominal muscles and lift one arm and the opposite leg (i.e. right arm and left leg), positioning them parallel to the floor. Remember not to let your body twist and to keep your torso level. Repeat this process with the opposite arm and leg.
Squats - Strength transfer
As explained above, your core is responsible for resisting motion, but also for transferring force. A surprisingly effective exercise to train this are Squats. When performing these, you try not to bend your spine. This is called anti-flexion. At the same time, your core must transfer force from your legs into the body to lift your it up.
Effective core training shouldn’t be limited to endless Situps. Work on improving your core stability and enhancing your ability to transfer force by performing a wide range of exercises that target different but interlinked muscles.