Perhaps the most overused, under defined, and most important word in my world. A lack of it can cause a slew of health and mobility issues. Having a six-pack seems like the most important reason to workout. What is your core? What are the best exercises to help make it stronger?
Defining your “core”.
When I say “core” I mean rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, obliques, multifidus, erector spinae, psoas, and quadratus lumborum. Sometimes people include glutes.
Basically, anything that helps you maintain a neutral spine during movement is a part of your “core”. There are two main core functions: anti-extension and anti-rotation.
When we’re doing a plank, or a hollow hold, standing upright or sitting(!!) and we can maintain a neutral spine (without extending our lumbar spine, or flexing our thoracic spine) we are engaging in anti-extension behavior. This can include lateral flexion, too. Such as performing a suitcase carry (or grocery bag carry) and not bending to one side (anti-lateral flexion).
When we’re being pulled in a series of different directions (literally) and we can hold our ground and not rotate, we are engaging in anti-rotation behavior.
How to strengthen it.
Planks. I hate to sound like a broken record, but when it comes to core strengthening keep it simple. Planks are a key indicator of core strength. I read an article years ago that stated if you could hold a 2 minute plank, your risk for back pain and injury plummeted. That article also states that back pain is the second most common reason people go to the doctor. Crazy, huh?
When I program core (which I do, into every.single.session), I mix supine with prone and anti-extension with anti-rotation. I almost always program two different core exercises and change the number of reps and rounds to keep variety a priority.
Here are some of my favorites. I apologize for the lighting in my dingy basement! #noexcuses
Planks, side planks, and variations.
Active leg lowers.
Hollow holds & rocks.
Stability ball variations.
Farmers & suitcase carries.
Walking 30-50ft with one or two heavy dumbbells is another great way to strengthen our core in a functional way. Questions? Comment below!