Four Great Core Exercises – Develop Your Core
Anti-Rotational Core Exercises
We often use ‘abs’ and ‘core’ interchangeably when we talk about core exercises–but we shouldn’t. Your abs are just one part of your core (or anatomical ‘girdle’, which you can read more about here), and oftentimes, many of the exercises that we do to promote great ‘ab’ strength fail to address our deep stabilizing core muscles—the ones that are responsible for our balance, stability, and posture.
Why Do Anti-Rotational Core Exercises?
So, why do so many personal trainers and other experienced fitness professionals recommend anti-rotational core exercises? Frequently, when something challenges our balance and stability—something or someone pushes us, we trip over a crack in the sidewalk, etc—it is the work of our stabilizing core muscles to absorb the impact, to keep us upright and help our body maintain its proper position. And even though we usually don’t notice them, these muscles are at work literally all the time: they’re working when we’re playing sports, and needing to stay upright at the same time as moving our limbs in an explosive manner, across multiple planes of movement (so, basically, when you’re doing literally any exercise at the gym). They are working when we’re just standing or sitting, eating dinner; they maintain our posture and, when they’re strong, they’ll help us to avoid chronic back issues and pain (not sure if your posture is on point? Check out our link here!). Plus, they’ll improve your golf game!
Because these muscles are so integral to everything that we do in our lives, and as they become even more important as we age, it is essential that we maintain their strength; I don’t know about you, but when I’m 70 and someone offers me a seat on the bus, I want to be able to say, “No, thank you” and ride that bus all over town, no-problem (though I would also appreciate my own personal driver to ferry me around).
How Do We Develop These Muscles?
So, how do we develop these muscles? This can be challenging since we often are not even aware of their existence, never mind how to target and strengthen them. This is where a certified personal trainer proves to be absolutely invaluable; an elite personal trainer will identify your deep stabilizing core muscles and help you engage them with specific core exercises for improved balance, stability, and performance in and out of the gym.
That being said, there are some core exercises that the qualified Infofit fitness professionals recommend to help you in targeting and fortifying your deep core muscles. These are anti-rotational core exercises, and they can be done at the gym or at home! The challenge essential to these core exercises is to remain stable throughout–so, avoid shifting or compensating with your hips or core. And remember to breathe rhythmically and avoid holding your breath!
This is a staple of the personal trainer toolbox! A great core exercise, the bird-dog can be performed at home, at the gym, on the road, on a train, on a boat! Anywhere your healthy, happy heart desires!
- Start on your hands and knees, hands shoulder-width apart.
- To start, try lifting your left hand and your right knee just a couple of inches off the floor, just to get a feel for the exercise. Hold for a couple seconds, before slowly lowering your limbs back to the floor. Alternate limbs.
- To progress, extend your left hand slowly and in a controlled manner in front of you as far as possible.
- Hold for ten seconds or for as long as you can, remaining as still as possible.
- Bring limbs back to quadruped position, and switch sides. Repeat.
- Tip: for extra challenge, try dropping to your forearms on a Bosu balance trainer.
2) High plank with a sandbag pass
- Start in a high plank position–hands planted and toes touching the ground.
- From this position, using your left hand, pull a sandbag from the right side of your torso to the left. The sandbag should stop just to the left of your torso, underneath you.
- Alternate sides, slowly, and with as little shifting of your hips and torso as possible.
- Tip: if you’re doing this at home, you can also use a bag of flour or rice! Or, if you’re really in a pinch, you can use a cat or small child! (Kidding, a cat would kill you if you did this.)
3) Pallof Press
- The Pallof press is a favourite of trainers all over the world. Endlessly versatile, all you need is resistance band (you can also use a cable pulley) and something to which you can attach the band (including your personal trainer!)
- To perform a ‘classic’ Pallof press, first, attach the resistance to something at your chest height.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart with the resistance band handles in your hands in the center of your chest. Your hands should be overlapping.
- Step far away enough from the band anchor point to feel tension; your body might want to lean with the pull of the resistance band.
- Resist this urge by keeping your core stable and your spine ‘tall’. Push the resistance band’s handles out from the center of your chest without shifting your hips or lifting your shoulders.
4) One-armed plank
- Come into high-plank position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Your body should form a straight line from head to toes.
- Without rotating your hips or shoulders, shift your weight to one arm and hold this position for as long as you can. Key point to note is not to let your body twist or shoulder drop of the arm off the ground.
- Switch arms!
- Tip: For extra challenge, try a one-armed push-up on a bench! Try and keep your core stable and engaged while you slowly lower and push up on one arm. And once you’re really good at that, progress to the floor!
Wishing you all the best on your journey to optimum health!
Written by Theresa Faulder, Master’s in English, Certified Personal Trainer, and Infofit fitness blog writer