Pretend you are going to take a body shot from George St. Pierre or Jon "Bones" Jones.
No, sorry. You can't run away. You have to eat the punch.
What do you do? In a best case scenario, you brace your core to absorb the ferocious impact and protect your internal organs. Even if your opponent isn't as fierce St. Pierre and Jones, you'll be ready if you have trained with the right core-strengthening exercises.
The brace is the body's protective mechanism to pull down the ribcage and tighten the abdominal wall. The nervous system responds this way to create high levels of tension against an impending threat—like a body shot that takes your breath away.
For a fighter, a rock-solid core to withstand body blows is essential for emerging from battles on top. Therefore, the goal is to strengthen the core with movements that cause the abdominals to brace automatically.
The following three core-strengthening exercises will not only challenge your core more than traditional Planks and Sit-Ups, they will teach you how to brace properly. Each one is performed while standing.
1. Standing Punch Out
The Standing Punch Out, also known as the Pallof Press, teaches the core musculature, especially the external obliques, to resist rotation. With enough resistance from a cable column or band, your core will automatically brace to resist the load pulling you to the side.
- Start in an athletic position with a cable handle or band at the center of your body at sternum level.
- Punch your arms straight out without allowing them to be pulled back toward the resistance.
- Hold for 5 seconds while bracing your abs and breathing with a tight core.
- Perform 5 repetitions on each side.
2. Barbell Anti-Rotational Landmine
Taking it up a notch, the Anti-Rotational Landmine progresses off the Standing Punch Out. You add arm movement while keeping your hips and core stable. This exercise helps you develop a strong core that acts as a solid foundation and produces explosive movements.
- Start in an athletic position with a barbell in each hand at the center of your body.
- Straighten out your arms.
- Allow your arms to rotate to one side while actively bracing your core without moving your hips.
- Return to the center and rotate your arms the other way.
- Perform 10 repetitions on each side.
- To increase difficulty, add weight to the barbell.
3. One-Arm Farmer's Walk
The third exercise adds more movement while forcing you to maintain abdominal bracing. Now that you've learned how to brace and have started strengthening your core, the final piece is to keep your abdomen tight and not break when you start to move. Think of the One-Arm Farmer's Walk as a walking Side Plank.
- With good technique, Deadlift a kettlebell or dumbbell off the floor.
- Hold the dumbbell or kettlebell in one arm while keeping good posture: chest up and shoulders down and back.
- Start walking. Imagine that you are holding another dumbbell or kettlebell in the other hand. Do not allow the weight to cause your body to bend.
- Walk for 15-30 yards while maintaining a brace and a moving plank position.
- Deadlift the weight down. Turn around and return with the weight in the other arm.
- Perform for 15 to 30 yards on each side.
Complete the three following movements in circuit fashion before your strength training sessions. Perform 2 to 3 rounds.
- Standing Punch Out x 5 (5-second hold)
- Barbell Anti-Rotational Landmine x 20 repetitions
- One-Arm Farmer's Walk x 15 yards each side
For more core training options, check out STACK's 18 favorite core exercises.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock