Traditional core exercises can become mundane and oftentimes useless in their translation into increased performance and injury prevention.
Without a deep understanding of the ever-growing list of core exercises you can find in a Google search, it can be overwhelming to identify the most effective exercises and know when and how to incorporate them into your training regimen.
Time is precious, so it is imperative that the time you spend in the gym each week is not wasted by exercises that do not serve you or your long term growth, continued adaptation and increased resiliency.
In an earlier blog post, 10 progressive core exercises, I went over the most effective principles used to adequately enhance your core strength. If you have not yet read that article (which comes equipped with video examples!) I would highly recommend doing so before we jump into this week's article about our favorite unconventional core exercises.
The following ten movements may not look sexy or entertaining for your Instagram followers but they play a vital role in increasing spinal stability and resiliency inside the gym as well as increasing strength and performance. Even better, they are also imperative for building musculature around your midsection - hello, six-pack! Now you can have the appearance of a strong core that actually translates to better performance inside the gym.
How? By resisting movement, not creating it! This results in a solid base and a greater ability to transfer energy between the lower and upper body without losing force at your midsection.
Our favorite unconventional core exercises fall into one of four different core stabilization categories listed below
These specific movements train the hips and spine to resist rotation. In order to truly express rotational power, it is crucial to first learn how to control it. Anti-rotational exercises are beneficial for everyone but are crucial for athletes whose particular sport involves the slightest degrees of rotation such as pitchers, runners, quarterbacks and golfers.
Have you ever seen a golfer swing a club? Notice the degree of rotation as he pulls the club back over his shoulder and follows through after making contact with the golf ball for a long drive? In order to improve the power of that swing, there must be adequate strength and stability in the hips, core, knees, and shoulders. Anti-rotational exercises are perfect for ensuring that the energy transfers directly into the proficiency of his drive without losing power.
Additionally, I have found that individuals who lack foundational core strength and motor control also benefit from incorporating anti-rotation movements into their training.
We have all seen or done the conventional anti-rotation exercise known as the bird-dog, which is an essential entry-level anti-rotation exercise discussed in our previous blog post, but as you enhance your abilities over time it is important to challenge the movement by incorporating more advanced exercises that elicit the same effect. Below are three of our favorite advanced anti-rotation movements. It is important to remember that your focus should be on keeping the core and glutes engaged throughout the entire movement in a way that resists any shifting or rotation through the hips. For prone anti-rotational movements such as the plank band row and quadruped shoulder taps, start with a greater base of support by moving your feet farther away from one another. If you would like to increase the difficulty, try moving your feet closer together.
Plank Band Row
Supine Belly Pallof Press
Quadruped Shoulder taps
The focus of these exercises is to resist extending or arching the spine. Think about Donald Duck - he demonstrates extreme spinal extension resulting from his hips being anteriorly rotated, causing a major arch in his lower back. Someone who has a similar demeanor or has trouble properly engaging their intra-abdominal muscles through dynamic movements would benefit greatly from anti-extension core exercises. The focus on these particular movements is to keep the hips and spine neutral throughout the entire movement while expanding the intra-abdominal muscles. Imagine that there is a string wrapped around your upper rib and your belly button; the position you would take if someone tightened that string as much as possible is the position you are trying to maintain, similar to the way a sad dog tucks his tail between his legs.
Ring Body Saw
Ab-Wheel Roll Outs
These exercises will improve your capacity for resisting lateral flexion, also known as side bending and is seen when the shoulders sway outside of the hips, similar to when someone is carrying a suitcase in their left hand and leaning aggressively to the opposite side. These specific movements target both your external and internal obliques and increase your strength and stability through your ankles, knees, and hips. Your focus during more dynamic anti-lateral flexion movements such as the suitcase carry or off-set deadlift is to maintain a perfectly upright position without bending to one side more than the other.
These specific exercises are used to resist any flexion or rounding of the spine. Imagine a picture of Hank Hill of the comedy show King of the Hill; he walks around without a natural curve in his lumbar spine and his glutes tucked underneath his pelvis. For a more sports-specific example, think of someone who folds over during the concentric phase of a heavy front squat. These individuals would benefit greatly from anti-flexion core exercises. These specific movements are purposely pulling the body into flexion, but the focus is resisting the flexion by maintaining a more upright and extended position through the upper back.
Dual KB rack carry
Front Rack Yoke Walks
There are thousands of different core exercises at your fingertips. This is great news, but oftentimes having too many movement options without a framework for selecting an appropriate movement can become overwhelming. This is especially true when you’re trying to formulate a plan that is meant to support YOUR weaknesses in a way that carries over into results.
Everyone is different and your core strengthening exercises should reflect that. Whether you are looking for increased performance, more variety in your training that continues to support your specific goals, or more guidance around your fitness and nutrition, Central Athlete is here for you!
As the leading experts of personalized fitness in Texas, our goal is to create a tangible plan that is built solely around YOU; no templates and no group training plans; just one coach to one client creating a unique plan based around your unique goals and needs!
If you are interested in learning more, click the link below to speak to a Central Athlete coach today. It’s time to ensure your hard work in the gym is leading you towards your goals!