If there’s one thing all athletes and many of the rest of us have in common – it’s that they want a strong core.
But you shouldn’t simply want a strong core for the aesthetic value of a six-pack (although that’s nice, too). Both men and women should be working their core for all the benefits it brings to your workouts and athletic performance.
Why have a strong core?
Because you need one. Your core is involved in a lot more exercises than you think – not just planks. You use your core for everything – deadlifts, bicep curls, bench press, and everything in between. By focusing on your main lifts and neglecting your core, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Incorporating more ab exercises improves every aspect of your training and gets you closer to your goals. A strong core improves your balance, stability, and form – which are fundamental to athletic performance as well as every other exercise. It may also improve posture and reduce back pain, according to Mayo Clinic. Harvard Health also published that strengthening your core shouldn’t just be an athlete’s concern – a strong core makes everyday activities easier, like housework and gardening. The good news is that you don’t need to dedicate entire days to this multi-tasking muscle group. All you really need is a few simple moves after your main workouts for no more than 20 minutes.
If you want to become a better overall athlete, here are some ab exercises to try out after you hit the weights:
For this exercise, you’ll need a weighted plate or medicine ball with which you sit down, cross your legs, and lift the plate or ball up.
From there, there are a couple of variations you can explore:
- Tucked-arm: For the energetic and rapid, this one’s for you. This Russian Twist variation calls for tucking the plate/ball close to your chest, and moving it from to side-to-side quickly, touching the floor by your hips. Challenge yourself and see how many you can squeeze in a minute.
- Extended-arm: For those who take it slow and steady, you may give this a try. Instead of trying to fit in as many reps as possible, set a fixed amount of reps for extended-arm Russian Twists. Instead of crunching in your arms, hold them out straight with your plate/ball in hand. Keep your arms extended and parallel to the ground while you twist 90 degrees from side-to-side. Don’t rush this one – complete about 5-10 twists each side with a three second hold after each twist.
You can’t go wrong with this staple move. If you’ve ever walked into any fitness facility before, there’s a 99% chance you’ve seen someone doing classic forearm planks. The classic version of this exercise consists of getting in the ‘up’ of a push-up position, then placing your forearms on the ground for support while keeping your body parallel to the ground.
If you’re more of a rebel, you can try adding these variations:
- Alternating planks: Make sure you find a comfortable surface to do these on. For these, start in that ‘up’ of a push-up position. Then one-by-one, you’ll switch your arms with your forearms continuously from 30 seconds to a minute. Hence the name ‘alternating’ planks – simply alternate from the ‘up’ position to a forearm plank position.
- Wave planks: Begin in the classic forearm plank position. Instead of planking still waiting for the time to pass, dip your hips down from side-to-side without arching your back. This works your obliques and not just your front abdominal muscles.
Yoga Ball Exercises
Large yoga balls are flexible pieces of equipment used for building a strong core, and every other muscle you can think of.
If you get your hands on one of these, be sure to break in your new ball with these exercises:
- Swiss Ball Crunch: If you remember the proper way to do crunches from your middle school P.E. exam, you should get the hang of this one right away. Lay down on a ball with your knees at a 90 degree angle and your back parallel to the ground. From there, just pump out your average crunches. By doing these on the ball, you can target your core more efficiently.
- Knee Tucks: Probably the most challenging workout on this list, this exercise will definitely strengthen your core. Place your hands on the floor, and your feet on the ball (your soles should be facing the roof). Next, just tuck your knees into your chest, bringing the ball forward. As simple as it is, you’ll feel the burn after just ten reps.
It’s okay to go all out at the gym – as long as you’re not overlooking your core. There are countless other core exercises that you can learn from the personal trainers at Thrive Fitness. Email us today at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started on shredding your abs and building a stronger core.