The importance of core strength cannot be overstated. Speak to any fitness guru or professional sports coach and they will always refer to core strength as being a huge factor in strength building. First of all I should clear the misconception that core strength refers to the strength of the abdominal muscles. Abdominal strength is a part of it but core strength refers to the strength of your entire torso.
Now there are many different exercises that you can incorporate into a core training program. For some, these core exercises will be challenging enough on their own. For others, you may wish to consider incorporating weights into the exercise to make it harder. Let’s take a look at some of these core strengthening exercises in more detail.
We might as well start with the most popular core strengthening exercise – the sit up. Sit ups are beneficial in working the abdominals and other stomach muscles, which are an important part of your core. With sit ups, try to focus on form rather than speed, and difficulty rather than quantity. If they are easy for you to perform then do them while holding some weight or while wearing a weighted vest. You can also do them upside down like this:
The crunch utilizes the same posture of the sit up but while performing it you lift your upper body up while your lower back remains on the ground, thereby eliminating the involvement of the body flexors and putting more pressure on the abdominal muscles. It is great exercise for your core and it’s more challenging than the sit up.
As the title says, this exercise involves setting your body up as a flag and there are two ways to do this. The first and easier method is to grab a pole with your palms facing opposite directions, like this:
The second and more difficult method is to grab the pole with your palms facing the same direction. This is the proper human flag exercise which is much more difficult than the first one:
Just holding yourself up like this is a great feat and exercise in itself but if you want to take it one step further you can move your legs up and down continuously until your mid section tires out. This is an excellent core strengthening exercise and as you advance you can make the exercise even more difficult by wearing ankle weights.
Weighted prone planks and side planks are good exercises to use when trying to build core strength. What makes the plank so effective is how it facilitates resistance training on a wide spread of core muscles, from abdominals and back muscles to biceps and hamstrings. When planking, as with sit ups, you should always focus on your form. It can be tempting to break the correct posture to hold the position for longer, but doing so is counter-productive. These exercises are relatively easy to perform which is why I recommend using a weighted vest for them.
Hanging Leg Raises
This is another great core exercise you can do if you have a pull up bar or something to hold onto. When working on your own hanging leg raises, always remember to:
- Keep your legs completely straight. This is what most people struggle with, but you must persevere.
- Keep your legs parallel to the floor.
- Raise, don’t swing. Swinging your legs up severely restricts the impact on your core muscles that the hanging leg raise gives.
As you advance and this exercise becomes easier you can take it up a notch and do it while wearing ankle weights.
The plate raise exercise consists of lifting and holding a weight disc (or something heavy like a filled bag) in front of you for as long as you can. The arms experience the most pressure but rest assured that your core is strengthened as well.
Holding a heavy object in front of you like that does wonders for your core especially for your abdominal muscles.
This lesser known exercise does wonders for your core and lower back, and it’s very simple to perform. Simply put a weighted barbell on your back as if doing a squat, bend over until your upper body is almost parallel to the floor (don’t go too low otherwise the weighted barbell will fall on your neck), and rise back again to your original position, like this:
Increase weight by 1kg every time it becomes easy to perform a few reps. This exercise is easy to perform but can become dangerous when you start working with heavier loads so be careful.
The calisthenics exercises known as the front, back, elbow lever etc… are all good for your core. One of the easiest to perform is the front lever, which involves holding a pull up bar and lifting your body up like a lever without bending yourself.
In order to keep your body straight a very strong core is required.
The normal squat without weights won’t do much for your core but the weighted squat certainly does help. While it is primarily a leg strengthening exercise, the muscles in your core are used for holding the weight on your back and to maintain a straight posture when going up a down.
This is the best core strengthening exercise because it works all of your core muscles. Yes, all of them! All of the core muscles are used when you lift something, and the heavier it is the more effective the exercise will be. The Romanian deadlift is probably the best one for increasing core strength because it works the lower back more intensely, but the normal one is safer and great as well.
The above list of core exercises is far from exhaustive, but it’s an excellent starting point. Don’t be a fool. Recognize the importance of building your core strength, and implement a core workout into your routine. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed with the results.