In the last post HERE we looked at core stability in a static position, which is a great place for anyone, particularly beginners to start.
Now lets add in some movement.
The role of the core musculature is to work reflexively in order to stabilise the spine. This means it must be able to respond in the blink of an eye to any force that is placed on it, be a force generated within our own body (throwing a punch) or a force being received from the outside (receiving a punch)
Any and all sporting actions, actually scratch that, any and all actions require the muscles in the core to fire. We don’t fire them consciously they kick in as a response to whatever it is we are trying to achieve.
So why not train them with exercises that challenge them in a reflexive manner?
Here’s a few examples of how to do this:
1 – Round the World
Most kettlebell lifters will be familiar with this, but it can be done with a weight plate just as easily (maybe not quite as easily due to grip requirements..)
Simply pass the weight from one hand to the other in front of you, continue it round and swap it behind you so as to trace a complete circle around the body.
This is standard practice in many of my warm ups as it trains the body to constantly adjust to a shifting centre of gravity.
2 – Weighted carries
Dr Stuart McGill, the worlds foremost expert on low back and core training calls the farmers walk “a moving plank”
And he knows a thing or two.
So grab a kettle or a dumbell, hold it by your side and go for a bimble. Simple eh?
Do a powerclean and walk with the weight up at shoulder height as you meander round the room.
Hold it locked out overhead as you walk. Just ensure with this final variation you keep the shoulder locked down, you should feel the weight through the back rather than in the shoulder.
These three variants are super simple and require a single weight, which will load the body on one side asking for greater levels of stability from the core region.
But can we use two bells? Damn right!
Be aware that you now potentially have double the load, so take care, especially as you pick, put down and turn around.
Then try off setting the bells, hold one high and the other low, ie one overhead and the other by the side. Obviously swap at regular intervals.
3 – Pretty much every bodyweight exercise ever invented.
(Barring the silly ones used in your local Aerobics class)
In the last post I already mentioned that moving in the plank position is usually called a push up, this should give you a bit of a clue.
Many who first start out on Pull Ups and Chin Ups are often caught out on how much they feel their lower abs work.
Bridge for the posterior core
Roll on the floor for dynamic stability in every plane
Animal Movements, well, that’s too big a list for one wee post, but come along to my bodyweight workshop and you’ll get the idea. I must also get back working on the Animal eBook I promised….
4 – Lifting Heavy Stuff
Especially Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead press (standing), Windmills and Turkish Get Ups.
Heavy lifting requires the core to stabilise against an external force. Not only that, but a force that is changing its vector as it progresses through the lift. Perform the lifts unilaterally and core activation goes up even further.
This is particularly apparent in the Get Up, there is so much movement in the lift the core musculature really must form a solid unit in order to get yourself up from the floor and onto your feet while holding something heavy in your outstretched arm.
And by the way, once you can do a Turkish Get Up, get that thing loaded and stop pansying about with babyweights. You should be able to work the Get Up with a weight heavier than you can press, and we expect you to get at least 1 rep with half your bodyweight.
5 – Hittin Fings
When we talk about the core being reactive and switching on in an instant, few things are better at creating this effect than hittin stuff really hard.
As I work out of a martial arts studio and many of my clients are martial artists, this is kind of bread and butter to us. We rarely use hitting as a core training drill as the guys spend hours hitting the bags and pads as part of their regular training. We do though have them smashing a tyre with a sledgehammer.
For non martial arts types, learning to throw a decent punch into a heavy bag is one of the most satisfying things you can do, it’s also “functional” in case you ever have to knock anyone out! But really, a punch requires the core musculature to stretch and contract to get power moving from the hips into the shoulders and then become a solid unit on impact to drive the power through the target.
A good bag session should leave you with sore abs and tired legs.
A step up again is to punch with some kind of restriction, try holding a weight in the opposite hand as you punch, or punch from a seated position These will force you to stabilise even harder in order to generate force.You can see the punching drill with a kettlebell towards the end of this clip, in fact you can see points 2, 3, 4,and 5 all in one workout:
6 – Directional Changes
Quick changes in direction are a great way to challenge to core region. This where things like sprints, shuttles, agility ladders, battling ropes and reaction drills come in. When we move quickly we move around our midsection. A proper gait pattern will see the shoulders and hips swinging in opposite directions, meaning that the muscles in between them, ie your core, are constantly flexing and extending. The more vigorously you do this, ie sprinting, the harder then flex and extend.
Now suddenly change direction.
Assuming you have good basic strength, mobility and running mechanics, sprinting with direction changes will do wonders for your midsection. If you aren’t a runner or have tight hips, stick to the agility ladder as the smaller movements have less inherent risk than when in full flight.
The battling rope is a great core developer as well as mean cardio, to create a wave in the rope, you must first create that wave within your body and that takes control to do, especially as the arms are moving independently.
Have some fun playing with each of these suggestion.