Try These 8 Moves for a Bulletproof Core
Having a strong core is important in and out of the gym.
Serious lifters know the importance of core strength in producing power, lifting heavier, and reducing injuries.
Compound lifts trains multiple joints, eliciting a huge muscle growth response. Deadlifts and heavy squats both push your body and core to the edge, but sometimes our core can be our weak link.
A weak core keeps you from reaching new personal records and can eventually can lead to injury. Lifters who squat and deadlift pound their posterior chain with accessory work after — so why would you treat your core differently?
Related - The Best 10-Minute Ab Workout
But there's a catch.
Those endless crunches, sit-ups, and planks aren't providing enough stimulus for strong lifters to get stronger.
It's because it's too easy.
When you train your core, you have to challenge yourself with high-tension, difficult exercises if you want to see improvement in your lifts.
So here are eight exercises you can implement into your current routine.
8 Exercises for a Better Core
1.) Mountain Climbers
This exercise is great for core strength, upper body strength, and it's a great cardio exercise.
Get into a push-up position, placing your hands directly under your shoulders. Pull one knee up toward your midsection — as if you were trying to climb a mountain.
Return your leg and repeat the movement with the other leg.
Learn proper form with each leg and slowly try to go faster and longer.
2.) Ab Roll Outs
Grab an ab wheel or a barbell with or without weight on it.
Get on your hands and knees as if you were about to do a push up on your knees and slowly roll the ab roller straight forward into a straight position.
After a slight pause in this stretched position, start to pull the ab wheel or barbell back — returning back to your starting position. Perform this move with a slow and controlled manner. Slowly allow the ab wheel or barbell go to further out as you get stronger.
This is a hard exercise, so don't get discouraged if it feels impossible.
3.) Weighted Hanging Leg Raise
Notorious of being an exercise that lifters don't perform correctly, hanging leg raises can be a great core workout.
Perform a strict leg raise with your feet pointing directly out in front of you. You can do these with an explosive leg lift and slow descent, or you can do a 4/2/4 timing tempo. That is, four seconds lifting your legs up, two seconds holding that position, four seconds letting your legs go down.
If you can do this exercise pretty easy, it's time to grab a dumbbell or medicine ball. Place the weight in between your feet and perform the exercise.
During your two-second hold, spread your legs out like a V and bring them back together before your descent.
4.) Hanging Leg Raise with a Twist
Stick to the tips above, but instead of sticking your feet directly out in front of you, lift one knee up and try to touch your opposite pec.
This is an oblique killer and can be hard to perfect. If you feel too much flexion in your back, slow down and improve your form.
5.) Hanging Leg Raise Flutter Kick
Ever hear of bicycle kicks? You know, the exercise where you lie on the ground and you kick your feet in front of you and fluttering your feet?
Do it on the hanging leg raise station.
Instead of going for reps, time yourself and try to beat your time.
Try three rounds of all-out flutters with a 30-second rest between each set.
Bodysaws are great and are surprisingly hard for as little of a range of motion this exercise uses.
You're going to have to get a furniture mover or a Valslide do to these, but it's worth it. Get into a plank position on your elbows, with your feet on something that will slide.
Next, slide your feet backward by essentially pushing your elbows up — sort of like a reverse ab roller.
Keep your core engaged and squeeze your lats as you pull yourself back to the starting position.
This exercise is pretty much impossible for me, so good luck to those who can do them.
7.) Wood Chops
This exercise will take a cable cross machine, but the rotational movement is going to increase your oblique strength and overall body power.
Set the cable to the highest pulley position and stand with your side to the handle, about arm's length away. Your outstretched arm should be aligned with the cable.
In one motion, pull the handle down and across your body with both hands, leaving your arms fully extended.
Repeat until failure with one side and then repeat the same movement on the opposite side.
If you've never heard of this exercise, you're in for a treat. If you have, you're probably asking yourself "why is this a core workout?" A great tool in every personal trainer's and physical therapist's bag, birddogs teach core stability by engaging your back and ab muscles simultaneously.
Start on your hands and knees with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips.
Tighten your core and reach your right arm forward and your left leg back. This will test your coordination and push you to maintain tightness throughout the movement. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for the other side.
Perform five to ten reps.
Wrapping It Up
Push your body and properly perform these exercises. You are killing your gains if you stick to non-challenging exercises or harder exercises with poor form.