Having a strong core is crucial to a balanced, resilient body, but strengthening your "core" is about a lot more than just doing traditional crunches.
We like to think of the core as a cylinder: the abs and back are the sides (specifically the transversus abdominis and the multifidus muscles) and the diaphragm and pelvic floor muscle groups are the top and bottom of the cylinder.
To get a strong core, we recommend doing a variety of movements that train: rotation, extension, flexion, lateral flexion, as well as anti-rotation, anti-extension, anti-lateral flexion, and hip flexion with a neutral spine.
To see some of our favorites, simply click the name of each exercise listed below to watch a video of how it's performed.
1. Pallof Press: It's always great to train on our feet as we're usually performing from a standing position. This is a great exercise for anti-rotation, and sometimes I will utilize these in place of a side plank for clients as well.
2. Turkish Get-Up: You know we love TGUs around here. Tons of bang for your buck, as this full-body exercise trains anti-extension (resisting arching), anti-lateral flexion (resisting side-bending), and hip flexion with a neutral spine, which are all major functions of the core.
3. Body Saw: Don't be fooled! This is a small movement, but a big challenge. Remember to only use the range of motion with which you can maintain proper form.
4. Rollouts: There are many different variations for rollouts using a stability ball, an ab wheel, a barbell, or a heavy chain. Keep in mind that a rollout is generally not a good exercise for beginners, with the exception of a Stability Ball Rollout (limited range of motion), and even then, it really depends on the individual. Some beginners are more "beginner" than others. These should be utilized by intermediate or advanced lifters with a strong foundation of strength, especially the rollout with a chain.
5. Slow Mountain Climbers: There are many variations to choose from. For example, you can do them the traditional way, or use valslides under your feet and/or hands on the floor. I sometimes like to place my hands on a Dynamax ball and drive my knees, which can also include knee taps to the outside of your elbows and/or across your body. In this video, Molly Galbraith performs slow mountain climbers.
6. Alligator Crawl: These are tough enough without the sled! Master just your bodyweight first, and then feel free to add load.
7. Stability Ball Knee Tuck (or Swiss Ball Jackknife): This is a challenging exercise that teaches you to flex your hips while maintaining a neutral spine. Go for it if you're feeling up to the challenge.
8. Half-Kneeling Anti-Rotation Exercises: You can perform many variations of this exercise, including the half-kneeling chop and half-kneeling lift, and you can use different equipment like kettlebells, cables, bands, and a medicine ball.
9. Dead Bug Variations: These look tame, but again, don't be fooled. Many who can muscle through various "strength" exercises have trouble with the small control and stability exercises such as dead bugs. The most important thing to focus on here is to keep your lower back "pinned" to the floor throughout the movement.
10. Band Pull-Over with Leg Raise: This one is great for integrating your upper and lower body while controlling flexion and extension of the trunk.
Big thanks to Damali Fraiser, Molly Galbraith, Ingrid Marcum, Ben Bruno, and Mike Bruno for providing quality demonstrations via YouTube.