Are you sure that you are getting everything you can out of your core routine? With all of the new developments in core training, it's difficult to keep up with the latest and most effective tools and techniques. Though the core has become a mainstream concept, most exercisers have a clouded view of what exactly the core consists of, its importance and what the best ways are to activate it.
The core includes the following muscles: Transverse Abdominis, Rectus Abdominis, Multifidus, External Obliques, Internal Obliques, Quadratus Lumborum and Erector Spinae. It provides a stable platform which launches all of our movement by stabilizing the spine. The core generates the rotational forces needed for many athletic movements including throwing, swinging, striking and twisting. It acts to resist or neutralize external forces such as gravity, contact or momentum. We are only as strong as our core. A weak core limits our strength capacity.
Four Tools to add to your Core Training Routine
TRX Suspension TrainerTM
The TRX® is one of the most innovative additions to core training in recent years. It's a non-elastic, adjustable harness constructed of industrial-strength, nylon webbing which uses bodyweight as the sole source of variable resistance. The TRX allows for hundreds of exercises that can accommodate all fitness levels. It integrates the core's postural, stabilizer and neutralizer components in all of its exercises and the addition of the suspended planks, crunches and oblique capabilities make it one of the most effective tools on the market.
The stability ball creates an unstable environment that requires more work from the core. Simple yet demanding, the stability ball can be used to add challenge to many exercises and modify others.
Most modern heavy balls are constructed of a textured rubber that is made to bounce. Heavy balls are the perfect exercise tool when training the core to control external forces, to stabilize the body while applying internal forces, and when working at higher speeds.
Balance devices come in all shapes and sizes: wobble boards, balance discs, BosuTM balls, BongoTM boards and foam balance surfaces. They all destabilize the surface using a base of support in one way or another, making the core more responsive. A word of caution: Always evaluate possible danger versus potential benefit before attempting any exercise that destabilizes your base of support.
Fun and Challenging Exercises
The following six movements utilize some of the tools outlined above and offer a complete core training package. There are beginner, intermediate and advanced versions to address a broad range of abilities.
Prone Rollout (Stability Ball or TRX)
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In a kneeling position, place hands on Stability Ball or TRX handles with elbows bent and hands positioned below chest. Assume tall posture and actively engage the core. Tilt body forward slowly transferring the weight into the hands. Slowly extend arms opening body as far as possible. Ensure that the body stays in a straight line and make sure the hips do not sag towards the ground. Stop where the core is challenged, but not overwhelmed and then reverse action, returning to the start position. The entire range of motion is very small (not greater than one foot of movement), and the movement speed is slow and controlled.
Beginner: Small range of motion
Intermediate: Deeper extension and longer holds in extended position
Advanced: On the TRX, move to a roll out in a standing position
Body Saw with Crunch (TRX or Stability Ball)
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Suspend the toes in the TRX or on top of a stability ball and position body in a prone plank on elbows. Engage core and open up at the shoulder joint, slowly pushing the body back in a saw motion. Do not allow hips to sag toward the ground. Pull body forward, lifting hips and pulling knees to chest in a suspended crunch action and then return to the plank position.
Beginner: Body Saw
Intermediate: Body Saw with Crunch (as described above)
Advanced: Perform Body Saw with a Pike movement or attempt the Body Saw from hands
Heavy Ball Rotational Throw (Partner or Wall)
Stand facing a partner/wall in a lunge stance. The leg nearest to the partner/wall is forward. Maintain a tall posture. Receive the ball with outstretched arms absorbing and controlling the force by activating the core musculature and rotating away from the direction of the ball. Rotate back toward the partner/wall and release the ball with both hands. To progress, come to a narrow stance, increase the movement speed or increase the weight of the heavy ball.
Beginner: Soft throw with a light ball
Intermediate: Hard throw with a light ball or soft throw with a heavy ball
Advanced: Hard throw with a heavy ball
High to Low Tubing Wood Chop (Rubber Tubing with handles)
Wrap your tubing around a pole and loop one handle over the other so that it's in single handle mode. Stand facing the tubing with feet together and arms outstretched at shoulder level. Grasp the tubing handle with a two-handed grip and keep the hips square. Allow the head to move with the hands and twist toward the pull of the tubing with the shoulders and torso. Engage the muscles around the core and stabilize the hips, twisting down and away from the pull of the tubing. The movement finishes with the hands at waist level.
Beginner: Wide stance with light resistance
Intermediate: Narrow stance with light resistance or wide stance with heavy resistance
Advanced: Narrow stance with heavy resistance
Standing Hip Drop (TRX)
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Stand facing the TRX, assuming a staggered stance where the inside leg is positioned forward. Place the TRX in single-handle mode grabbing with both hands and positioning on the crown of the head. Allow the hip to drop away from the body toward the floor, avoiding rotation of the torso.
Beginner: Shallow position using a slow movement speed
Intermediate: Position body at a steeper angle
Advanced: Keep the body at a steep angle and increase movement speed
Side Plank with Floor Taps-(Elbow, Hand, Feet--Floor/TRX)
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Turn on your side with one foot stacked on top of the other. Support upper body with one forearm, keeping hips square and core engaged while lifting off the floor. Keep elbow of supporting arm in line with shoulder. Focus on maintaining strong body alignment. An advanced progression is to add a piking action that is coupled with a rotational reach under the body followed by a return to the side plank position with the arm outstretched toward the ceiling.
Beginner: Support on elbow with feet offset (outside leg in front of back leg)
Intermediate: Support on hand with feet offset or support on elbow with
feet in TRX
Advanced: Support on hand with feet stacked on top of one another or support on hand with feet in TRX