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My Favorite Core Exercises that are More Effective than Crunches

Okay, I’ve been there too. Do a bunch of crunches + you will absolutely feel the burn in the places you want to burn the most. I get it! It feels good because it feels like you are doing something. But there are a few major problems I have with this. First, it may feel good but are you actually getting stronger more functional abs with each sit-up you do? Unlikely. You see if you want a six pack of abs, you can’t just work the six pack area (known as the rectus abdominus). If you only worked this area the chances are you may instead end up with worse posture, a low belly pooch or maybe abs that resemble what I like to call a bread loaf (side note: I used to have this!) along with no fat loss results to show for the thousands of crunches you are racking up. In order to get a six pack, fat loss is usually a key component + the only way to lose fat is to build muscle. Second, fat loss doesn’t work this way! Meaning we cannot spot target fat loss. If we want slimmer arms, we cannot just do upper body exercises. If we want lean abs, we cannot just do crunches. Instead we must work our entire body because believe it or not - it all functions together. So that is why I believe my approach to core exercise is much more effective than focusing on daily crunches. Not only to get your core aesthetically how you’d like but also to get your core stronger than ever + your body functioning to its optimal capacity. Sold? Even if not, I challenge you to add some of these exercises into your daily routine for the next 6 weeks + see how you start to feel.


CORE ANATOMY BEFORE WE BEGIN

The core consists of many major muscle groups + it is important to find exercises that work all areas. As you will see, the rectus is only one area of the core. It is typically the area we put most focus on because it is in the front + most visible to our eyes but the surrounding areas of our mid-section cannot be neglected. A main reason we must do more for the core than supinated crunches.


For Beginners:

The following exercises are for beginners because they are designed to isolate the core muscles. If you cannot do these properly, I recommend you practice nailing these before moving on to the advanced section.


DEADBUG

how it is done: This is a reciprocal movement, so the left arm + right leg move at once and vice versa. While lying on your back, start with both arms + legs elevated. Pull your ribs downward with your abs + hold them there. Roll the front of your pelvis towards your ribs. Press your lower back into the floor. Don't lose that position as you move your arms and legs.


primary core muscles used: Rectus abdominus, Transverse abdominus


tips: make sure your low back stays on the ground through the entire exercise. this will ensure your core is working instead of relying on other muscles to get you through. also, take your time!



BIRDOG

how it is done: This is another reciprocal movement, so the left arm + right leg move at once and vice versa. Begin kneeling on all-fours, exhale fully + feel your oblique abs lock your ribs down. Keep your abs tightly braced to hold this ribs-down position + tuck your tailbone under. While holding this position, reach your arm straight forward + your opposite leg straight behind you. Keep your abs tight + do not let your ribs flare or arch your lower back as you lock out your shoulder blade + opposite-side glute.


primary core muscles used: Mulitifidus, Erector spinae, Quadratus lumborum


tips: keep your back flat + do not allow your belly to sink towards the ground. the idea is not to lift with your low back but instead to utilize your glutes (butt) + upper back for this movement. also think about lengthening from fingers to toes. all about the length of the limbs, not so much the height.



PALLOF PRESS

how it is done: Position your spine by locking your ribs down in an exhaled position with your abs. Keep your tailbone tucked under + your abs tight throughout the movement. Press your hands outward without letting your hips rotate, your ribs flare out or arching your lower back.


primary core muscles used: Internal/external obliques, Transverse Abdomis


tips: keep your shoulders down, neck long, hips slightly tucked under + posture upright. this one is easy to compensate so start with a light weight + work up to something more challenging.



FARMERS CARRY

how it is done: Begin with your abs tight + your ribs pulled down. Think of using your abs to control the space between your ribs + the front of your pelvis.. Carry the weight with tightly braced abs while keeping your shoulders back + your head neutral.


primary core muscles used: Total core stability


tips: similar to the pallof press, posture is everything. long neck + shoulders back. it is also important not to let the weights swing around. slow and controlled is the best way to go about this one.



For those ready for more:

DEADLIFT

how it is done: Begin with your abs tightly braced + your ribs pulled downward. Think of using your abs to control the space between your ribs and the front of your pelvis. Lower to the bar while pushing your hips back + loading a light stretch into your hamstrings. Keep your weight on your heels, your feet straight forward, your knees straight over your little toes + abs braced. Pull upward while maintaining good positioning. Keep your abs locked + ribs down at the top.


primary core muscles used:  Multifidus, Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum


tips: move through the hips, not the low back. keep your spine in a perfect line while executing this move which is extremely hard to do if you have a weak core!



PLANK

how it is done: Lock your ribs down with your abs. Tuck your tailbone between your knees. Do not let your lower back sag.


primary core muscles used:  Rectus Abdominus, Transverse Abdominus


tips: if you think the plank is easy, you most likely are not doing it correctly! similar to the birdog, be sure to keep hips slightly tucked + back flat so belly is not sagging towards the ground. if that’s challenging, try to work on an incline first before making your way to the floor. if it’s still easy, try squeezing something between your legs like a yoga ball, a pillow or block.



SINGLE ARM FARMERS CARRY

how it is done: Begin with your abs tight + your ribs pulled down. Think of using your abs to control the space between your ribs + the front of your pelvis. Carry the weight with tightly braced abs while keeping your shoulders back + your head neutral.


primary core muscles used:  Internal/External Obliques, Transverse Abdominus, Quadratus Lumborum, Erector Spinae


tips: don’t let yourself lean! keep as upright as possible + again…slow + steady.




PALLOF ROTATION

how it is done: Position your spine by locking your ribs down in an exhaled position with your abs. Keep your tailbone tucked under + your abs tight throughout the movement. Press your hands outward without letting your hips rotate, your ribs flare out or arching your lower back. Proceed to rotate by keeping core engaged + arms locked in place,


primary core muscles used:  Internal/External Obliques, Rectus Abdominus, Transverse Abdominus


tips: make sure you move from the core, not from your arms. everything should be moving together.



Other exercises that are excellent for overall core strength include lunge variations, goblet squats + pull-ups. Do these movements correctly + I guarantee you will feel stronger + your abs will look better than ever! Questions or need help breaking down any of these exercises? Email me or set up a consult today.




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