How do you know if you are getting the most from your core training program? It sounds like a simple question; but it's not. I mean with the ever increasing knowledge and understanding of the body's core, more and more information is being released for us to review and utilize. It's difficult to stay on top of the latest and most effective / efficient techniques. However even with this increase in knowledge and discussion, most exercisers don't know what makes up the core, what its main job, and how to effectively train the core to that job better.
Let's start by looking at what makes up the core. The core is made up of the Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Internal Obliques, External Obliques, Quadratus Lumborum, Multifidus and the Erector Spinae. Now that we know what the core is, what does it do? The core's main responsibility is to stabilize the spine; and from there all movement can be generated. The rotational movements, forces needed in most athletic movements (i.e. throwing, twisting, swinging and jumping), are all generated from the core. Our core is our foundation, and in essence we are only as strong as our foundation. In addition, a weak core could also limit our strength potential.
Now let's look at those 4 fun and challenging exercises to improve our core and improve our fitness.
Kneel on a mat and place your hands on top of a stability ball or in the Portable Body Weight Trainer. Draw your abs in and slowly lean forward rolling your hands over the ball as it moves away from your body. Go out as far as you can while keeping your body in a straight line (Perfect Form). Pull back on the arms keeping them straight; reverse the movement and returning the body to the upright or starting position
Beginner: Small range of motion
Intermediate: Deeper extension and longer holds in extended position
Advanced: On the Bodyweight Trainer, move to a roll out in a standing position
Knee INS (Portable Bodyweight Trainer or Stability Ball)
Begin by bracing your abs. Put your hands on the ground and rest your toes in the straps of the portable trainer or rest your shins on the ball. With your arms straight (opening up the shoulder joint) and your back flat, your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Keeping your back straight (don't round it), move your knees as close to your chest as possible by contracting your abs and pulling them forward. Pause and then return your knees to the starting position by pushing your knees backward.
Beginner: Knee Ins
Intermediate: Knee Ins with Crunch (as described above)
Advanced: Perform Knee Ins with a Pike movement or attempt the Knee Ins from hands
Rotational Medicine Ball Throw (Partner or Wall)
Standing facing your partner or a wall in a lunge stance. The lead leg (the one closest too your partner / wall) should be the one that is forward. When you catch the throw or rebounded medicine ball, make sure that your arms are outstretched. This will help you control the force that is being place on your body through the activation of the core muscles as they rotate away from where the ball was thrown. Then rotate back toward your partner or wall and throw the ball with both hands. To make this more difficult bring your feet closer together or more narrow. To continue to progress increase the speed at which the medicine ball is thrown and increase the weight of the ball.
Beginner: Soft throw with a light ball
Intermediate: Hard throw with a light ball or soft throw with a heavy ball
Advanced: Hard throw with a heavy ball
Side Plank with Floor touches-(Elbow, Hand, Feet–Floor/Portable Bodyweight Trainer)
Lie on one side with feet and legs stacked on top of each other, and forearms on the ground. Draw your abs in and activate your glutes. Then lift your hips and legs off the ground until the body forms a straight line from head to toe. One progression would be to place your top foot in front of the other (offset them). A more advanced movement would to lift the top leg until you are resting on forearms and one foot.
Beginner: Support on elbow with feet offset, on top of each other (outside leg in front of back leg)
Intermediate: Support on the elbow or hand with feet offset
Advanced: Support on the elbow or hand with feet with on leg lifted in the air while balancing on the bottom leg, still maintaining a straight-line from your shoulder to your ankles.
There you have it 4 Effective Training Tips to improve your core and your fitness. Give them a try and let me know how they worked for you.