When I sit down with a client for their initial consultation, we always go over what their goals are for the coming months. Most people's first goal is to lose weight. What is most people's second goal?
To improve their core strength.
I have to agree that a lot of these people do need to improve their core strength due to a plethora of American jobs creating a mainly sedentary lifetsyle.
So I go about training the client in the best way I feel fits thier goals, needs, and ability. Fast forward a few training sessions. Sometimes this question pops up, "I really like what we are doing, but is there any way we can add in some sit-ups or crunch variations so that I can work more on my core strength?"
My response is generally along the lines of, "If you want to work more on your core strength than what we already are then sure, we can add in some other exercises, but sit-ups are not the way to go about doing that."
The core is meant to resist motion. Therefore, you should train the core to resist motion, not create it.
What do all those sit-ups and crazy crunch variations do? Create motion. If you are saying, "yeah, but when I do those crunches I really feel the burn in my abs."
Well if you want to improve the work capacity of your rectus abdominis (the group of little six muscles on the front of your stomach that are visible if you are under 10% body fat) then keep doing those crunches, but if you want a strong core then you need to shift your exercise selection a tad.
The main muscle groups that are commonly asscoiated with the core include the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, erector spinae, hip flexors, hip abductors, and glute maximus, medius, and minimus.
Did I just list the rectus abdominis (the 6-pack abs) and stop there. No. There is way more to your "core" than just your abs.
All the muscles of the core are designed to actively work together to allow forces acting the body to be distributed properly.
Core development is working the musculature that is responsible for creating stability of the spine, as well as aiding in force transfer and posture.
The focus of training then, should be on four categories of how your body resists motion. These include anti-rotation (resisting rotation from an outside force or from gravity) , anti-lateral flexion (not bending sideways when a force is acting upon you), anti-flexion (resisting a load from pulling your shoulders closer to your legs), as well as some anti-extension (the resisting of extension in your lumbar spine) exercises.
Below are what I consider to be the best exercises for each category listed above.
First of all, planks are kind of the jack of all trades. Variations of planks (click here) can be used to fit any of these categories.
1) Cable or Band Pallof Press
2) Renegade Rows
3) Cable Anti-Rotation Chop
1) Suitcase Carry
2) Single-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Walk
3) Side Plank March
3) Kettlebell Swing
1) Plank Walkouts
2) Vertical Cable Press
Try to include one exercise from all four categories throughout your week and I promise you that you will feel your core strength sky rocket.
Say hello to a strong core.
Till next time,