Six Of The Best Core Exercises! Our experts are here to show you
Todays article lists our top 6 exercises for developing a stong, functional and athletic midsection. Why not tell us your favourite core exercises? Maybe well add them to our list!
1) Dead lifts
Not strictly a core exercise in the strictest sense of the word but none the less an excellent exercise to strengthen and develop the erector spinea muscles of the lower back. Dead lifting requires you to coordinate the efforts of your legs with your lower back and as such is a truly functional core exercise. A weak midsection will present its self during the dead lift as a rounding of the lower back so if you experience this you should reduce your training weight to avoid injury. If you don’t know how to dead lift, get some qualified instruction!
2) Cable Russian Twists
Rotational strength is vital in all sports and twisting sit ups and, worse still, broom stick twists are ineffective for developing strength. To develop strength we need to apply a significant overload to the muscles in question and twisting sit ups just won’t do it! The cable Russian twist allows us to load up the obliques – the muscles responsible for rotation – which is essential for strength development. To perform the cable Russian twist, adjust a cable pulley so it is set at about shoulder height. Stand side on to the cable and hold the handle in both hands. Keeping your legs slightly flexed and your arms straight, rotate your spine whilst imagining your upper body as a tank turret. Rotate through a full 180 degrees keeping your arms, chest and head all in perfect alignment. Repeat for 6-20 reps before changing sides.
3) Swiss ball crunches
Whilst traditional crunches on the floor will provide a minimal challenge for most fit sports people, performing crunches on a Swiss or stability ball should make the common crunch much more effective. The instability of the ball as it wobbles from side to side will “fire up” the abdominal muscles far more effectively and make the exercise much more challenging. To perform this exercise, sit on the ball and then walk your feet forwards until you are lying across the ball and it sits in the natural curve of your lower back. Place your hands either at your temples, crossed over your chest or on your legs. Make sure you start from an extended position – i.e. your head should be lower than your hips. Starting with your head, curl up one vertebra at a time until your abdominals are fully contracted before slowly inhaling and returning to your starting position. If you can perform more than 20 reps, try holding a weight plate or medicine ball on your chest. If you do perform the weighted version of this exercise you may need to anchor your feet to avoid rolling off the ball.
4) Saxon side bends
This exercise, named after Arthur Saxon – a historically famous English strongman, is super effective for working all of the core musculature. To perform Saxon side bands stand with feet hip width apart and hold a single dumbbell or medicine ball held overhead in both hands. Avoiding any forward, backward or twisting movements, lean to one side whilst keeping your arms extended overhead. Bend to the side as far as your flexibility allows before returning to the middle position. Immediately bend to the other side and continue for the desired number of repetitions. The secret to this exercise is the long lever provided by holding a weight above your head.
5) Swiss ball mountain climbers
This unusual exercise is a dynamic stability exercise which requires you to maintain core control despite the movement of your legs. This is a primary function of the core muscles in sport and is a valuable exercise for all sportsmen and women. Place your hands on either side of a medium Swiss/stability ball and walk your feet backwards so you are in a press up position. Brace your abs as hard as you can to maintain core tension. Alternately pull one knee and then the other into your chest whilst making sure your midsection doesn’t move but be careful not to hold your breath. The faster you more the legs the more “wobble” you’ll need to stabilise and the more demanding the exercise will be. To make the exercise even more demanding, try elevating your feet on an exercise bench.
6) Barbell or ab wheel roll outs
One of the most challenging core exercises you can do is called the roll out and can be performed using a loaded barbell or an ab wheel device designed especially for this exercise. If you are using a barbell, place a 5-10kg weight plate at each end of the bar and secure them in place with collars. Kneel on an exercise mat in front of the bar and place both hands at about shoulder width apart with an overhand grip. Simultaneously extend your hips and shoulders to lean forwards and push the bar away from you. Keep your core tight throughout and avoid extending your spine – if you feel any discomfort in your lower back you have gone too far. Pause at the most extended position you can manage for 1-2 seconds before bending your hips and using your abs and shoulders to pull yourself back to the kneeling position. This exercise will challenge even the strongest core! If you get to the point where you can do 20 perfect reps on your knees, you’re ready to try this exercise from the standing position but, be warned, you may find you can barely perform a single rep of this ultra-hard exercise.
This is far from being an exhaustive list of exercises but each one will provide you with plenty of “bang for your buck” and challenge your core muscles to become stronger. Don’t try and do them all in the same workout though – chose 2-3 a day on non-consecutive days and perform 2-3 sets of each for best results.