Babies should be our blueprint to core training…
Those cuddly, cute little poo all the time machines are born without the ability to walk…something unique to us biped creatures. Our bodies were made to move more efficiently upright, and it takes strength in our very core to maintain this upright posture and to walk, an ability built and learnt in the first 18 or so months of life. They have to learn to hold first their heads then their torso up, then strengthen and coordinate crawling before standing up and walking….Their shoulders, back, abdominals, hips and legs are involved in the coordinated effort, working the core in unison. A baby never crunches to train the core, you shouldn’t either.
There is a time and place for using floor exercises to build basic stability. But the floor exercises are not the most efficient especially to the intermediate and advanced exerciser. This exerciser will benefit most from maintaining a standing position (or hanging) while training the core muscles.
Here are some of my favourite core training exercises. You will notice that most of them engage almost the entire body. There is really no good core program that is not a full body program, it just doesn’t exist.
The Kettlebell Windmill – Here I am demonstrating with two kettlebells. However, this exercise can be performed holding just one kettlebell. The spine remains rigid and the movement comes from the hips. This exercise also requires shoulder stability and looks kick-ass in the gym! – Notice I am looking up at the kettlebell? I am not camera shy, that keeps my spine in position….plus, keeps the bell pointed straight towards the ceiling, which is good for my shoulder, don’t want to tear anything in there, the shoulder is held together only by muscle – no bone, a discussion for another day.
The Waitress Walk – Yes I am training my abs here as well. One of the tricks of training the core is unilateral training, training one limb at a time forces the core to adjust internally to maintain your normal gait, which is what is happening here – Plus my shoulders are getting a good workout isometrically. Looking up at the bell? That is to protect me, and that is the way to do it. The weight should be challenging, otherwise this doesn’t work.
Turkish Get Ups – Originally a kettlebell exercise, you can perform this exercise holding any type of weight on one hand. It isbest to develop stability through exercises such as the wind mill, waitress walk and farmers walk before attempting a weighted Turkish get up.
Anger Management – Tyre Throws – Looking to let off some steam? Find an old tyre and throw it around working everything but your finger nails.
The Western Kenya Water Carry – I just baptised this one. Water used to be ferried on gourds (and then plastic containers) on the head, and still is, in many parts of Africa. I had noticed long before I became a PT that these women stood tall and proud, their spines erect and their stomachs usually firm, there is a reason. All that weight above their shoulders is a core workout for free…so yes, I do make my clients carry weights above their heads, it’s a survival skill they will probably never use 🙂
Anger Management – All types of smashes – One caveat, do not hyperextend your spine, always begin the smash from either 180 degrees or less, never more. If you have trouble with motivation, you can picture someone you do not like on the ground…medicine balls are also good, and weight plates, but do not throw the weights on the ground.
Snatches, Lunges with weight overhead, Glute activation lunge….why not combine all three while at it?
You can perform a lunge with only one weight overhead. The exercise below is performed only after learning how to snatch and building requisite forearm and shoulder strength.
This list is certainly not exhaustive. Traditional lifts such as back and front loaded squats, heavy deadlifts, cleans, cleans and presses are all great core exercises. You do not have to crunch it. Your body works in moving different parts, it only makes sense to train the same way.