There are a million "core" exercises out there on the internet, some are great but most are going to be a waist of your time and predisposes you to injury. The chances are if the video involves a "trainer" who is half naked the information is more than likely half garbage. If you want to bring value to your training as well as bullet-proof your mid-section and low back give this a go.
Before we go into some of our favorite functional core exercises, let's discuss what our core actually is.
We define the core or "abs" as the musculature surrounding the trunk that assists in stabilizing, resisting, absorbing and transferring force as we move. Essentially everything that isn't your arms and legs, now that's a lot of muscles! For simplicity sake let's break them down into the anterior (front), Lateral (side) Posterior (back) core.
The anterior core musculature consists of the rectus abdominis (6-pack) and transverse abdominis as well as our hip flexors and diaphragm (yes, diaphragm is a powerful core stabilizer!).
The lateral core musculature consist of the internal and external obliques.
The posterior core musculature consists of Glute maximus, glute minimus, glute medius, pelvic floor muscles, quadratus lumborum and latissimus dorsi.
Now, that's a lot more than you probably imagined and that's not even all of them! This is why just doing traditional crunches to get that "6 pack" is not-only counterproductive and ineffective but dangerous for a number of reasons. Training the core as a whole will keep the lower-back healthy, pain-free and will look a whole lot better!
Try these 5 core exercises over the next 6-8 weeks and let me know how much better and stronger you feel!
(1) Core primer - DEAD BUG (Beginner)
Grab a physio-ball, drive you knees into it, keep your pelvis in a posterior tilt (think cat-cow if you've done yoga) and make sure you don't arch through your low-back. The trunk stays stable as you only move your arms under control. Throw in a forceful exhale as you get the arm towards the ground and drive into the ball harder with the arm and knees. If you can master this exercise with pristine technique for more at-least 45 seconds then give the rest of the exercises a try.
(2) RKC 10 breath Plank
If you can hold a plank for more than a minute, don't waste your time staying up there any longer. Get into a good plank position as shown. Squeeze your glutes, quads and then dig the elbows into the ground and apply force back toward your feet and try to drag your feet towards your elbows. This is the intent, your're not actually going to move. The goal is to create as much tension throughout your body as possible as you take 10 long deep breaths, emphasize the exhale (diaphragm) and squeeze harder with each breath.
(3) Bear Crawl
Set a timer for 60-90 seconds and get down on all fours and move with intent. Reciprocal (opposite) arm/leg reach maintaining tightness throughout the midsection, minimize hip rotation. Keep the hips down and move under control here.
(4) Bird dog rows
Set a timer for 60-90 seconds and find a bench and a challenging weight to row from a bird-dog position here. The goal is to remain as stable as possible and resist rotational forces. Also, don't fall off the bench!
(5) Farmers carry
Find a challenging weight and set a timer for 60-90 seconds as you walk under load. The goal is to maintain as much tension as possible through the midsection and upper back.
That's a wrap! Next week will be 10 advanced core exercises that you probably haven't tried before.
Lawrence Lee Functional Movement Specialist Lee Physical Therapy & Wellness