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15 Ways To Strengthen Your Core



Posted in: Training Articles
By John Davies - Chat with Coach Davies on the ProSource Fitness Forum | Feb 21, 2007



nullIn the world of fitness, the term "core" has become a buzzword. And while I'm prone to say the term "core stabilization" is overused, the intent is important, as there should be a firm realization that virtually every complex motor pattern and efficient movement will only occur in optimum degrees with proper development of the trunk. Suitable development of this area will infer strengthening of the pelvic and hip complex to enhance posture, thereby improving force production capabilities and ultimately reducing injuries throughout the body.

That being said, the public's recognition of " training the core" has created a plethora of new products, of which the majority of them are questionably effective if not simply useless. Most of these products profess bold claims of developing a chiseled physique in brief training sessions. Yet nothing is farther from the truth, as to truly develop a strong and flexible trunk takes brutally tough work.

This has created a peculiar setting where the general exercise pubic has been correctly "sold" the importance of developing this area, but through measures that may be costly, potentially harmful and most likely ineffective. 

From my "Rotational Axis Training" system on creating a powerful and explosive trunk, I have extracted a list of 15 exercises. Most of these lifts are not complicated and can be done by virtually anyone (excluding those with a prior injury). I do wish to emphasize to use a load light enough to ensure you are performing the movement correctly. Additionally, I wish to stress that without the benefit of a full training program that includes range of motion training in both a dynamic and static fashion, your work will be incomplete.

The first four exercises are some of the most important in developing a strong, stable core. While some might not consider them "exhilarating" or have the sex appeal of other dramatic movements, these isometric holds will go a long way to creating a powerful trunk that is pain-free throughout your lifetime. These four exercises ( Plank, Side Plank, Horse and Superman) should be done three times per week.
  • Plank: This basic hold can have such extraordinary impact that it remains one of best movements to strengthen the entire core area. With toes and forearms on the ground, keep back flat and bring navel in. Hold stance for approximately 30 seconds, repeat twice.
  • Side Plank: Plank movements are great for strengthening the transverse abdominus that wraps around the entire core. Self explanatory, with forearm against the ground and top leg stacked atop the lower one with the navel drawn in; hold position with a totally balanced and straight line for a period of 15 seconds.
  • Horse:  From the all four's position, raise leg up and opposite arm up, maintaining at parallel position for approximately 30 seconds. Thumb should be pointed up and navel drawn in again. This seemingly simple static exercise will create havoc on the entire posterior chain from the hamstrings to the upper shoulders and build a solid trunk.
  • Superman: While lying on your stomach, raise both arms and legs off the ground as high as possible. Maintain the hold for 15 seconds and release.
  • Leg Raise Pike (not shown): The common leg raise in a pike position is a powerful abdominal developer. Hanging from a pull-up bar with legs straight, pull up legs and bring feet towards hands. Don't swing, sway or even complain while you're performing a strong set of 10 reps, twice per week.
The following grouping consists of five weighted movements (Turkish Get-Up, Corner Bar Twist, Side Press, See-Saw Press and Saxon Side Bend). These lifts should be  performed twice per week, with 4 total sets combined per workout.
  • Turkish Get-Up (not shown): Lie on the floor flat on your back, holding a dumbbell in one hand with your elbow locked-out and arm stretched-out above your head. Roll to the side opposite of the arm holding the weight and then stand up, still holding the dumbbell above your head as quickly as possible, facing the same direction as your start position. Once standing, reverse the movement with speed. The key of this that many err on is performing this movement too slowly. Perform three to four explosive reps on both sides.
  • Side Press: start with one hand holding a weight or band at shoulder height and the other hand on your hip. Push the weight above your head as you straighten you arm and bend to the opposite side and then straighten up again.
  • Corner Bar Twist (not shown): Wedge a bar in a corner and stand facing it, feet straight ahead shoulder-width apart and lead hip directly facing the wall. The lead hand closest to wall is overhand with other hand turned underneath. Turn the bar explosively overhead, generating movement purely from your trunk, pivoting with your feet moving and facing wall directly ahead. The key is speed, speed, speed — explode out 6 reps to each side.
  • See-Saw Press (not shown): Consider this a two-handed side press with weights in both hands. Push the weight above your head as you straighten you arm and bend to the opposite side and then straighten up again, pushing the other hand overhead. Rep range again is at 6 per set.
  • Saxon Side Bend (not shown): Named after famed turn-of-century strongman Arthur Saxon, this is a brutally tough and humbling movement. Standing upright, with good posture and your feet spread shoulder-width apart, hold dumbbells directly over your head, palms facing each other. Ensure that weight is held firmly over your head and not leaning in front of you. With your feet spread roughly 18 inches apart and pointed straight ahead, hold the dumbbells above your head close together. With total control, bend to one side and repeat back in opposite direction. Bend to the side you bend to the side, keep the torso tight and keep hands close together. Do six reps per set.
Do the following lifts two to three times per week with varying intensity. The medicine ball twisting movements should be performed explosively, on days prior to and after major weight training sessions to enhance recovery.
  • Medicine-Ball Seated Twist Throws: There are many variations to this, but one of my favorite movements is a simple two-handed toss. With legs wide apart, twist to back-side and rebound through, exploding toss to opposite side. Preferably done with a coach who tosses back firmly into the eccentric portion of the movement.
  • Medicine-Ball Standing Twist Throw: With two hands on the ball, feet pointed straight ahead and lead hip facing the target, swing the ball to the backside, turning your head with the ball, then rebound and explosively throw the ball n the direction of opposite hip, following through. This is preferably done with coach or partner tossing the ball back into the eccentric action of the movement.
  • Russian Twist: This can be performed on both a standard glute-ham bench or, my preference, while laying with your back on a non-burstable Swiss ball. With your arms straight, hold a med ball or modest weight above your eyes, twist torso so that lead arm is parallel to ground and return to opposite side. Perform 8-10 repetitions of 1-2 sets.
  • Torso Twist: Lay flat on your back, arms straight out to your sides with hands flat on floor. Draw your legs up so that they are perpendicular to the floor and closed tight. Bring your feet to the floor on one side under control and return to opposite side. Maintain total control and don't allow your legs to drop to the floor. Perform 1 to 2 sets of 8-10 repetitions.

  • Overhead Squat: At this stage you're likely worn out looking at this assortment of exercises, and yet I may have left one of the most extraordinary movements to the last. In performing this lift, your grip is quite wide, outside the rings akin to a Power Snatch grip and your arms straight. The bar will be aligned at or slightly behind your ears with back arched. Squat down by pushing your hips and butt back to complete squat depth and then stand back up. Overhead squats are typically done once per week, 4 total sets of with 6 repetitions.
Pay careful attention to these lifts and begin to incorporate them into your weekly training. Combined with proper diet and supplementation, these exercises will not only develop a powerful core, but help you get that shredded look that you desire.





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