When a coach says, "this exercise engages your core," it might leave you scratching your head rather than feeling your core light up.
The abdominals are not the only muscles that make up your mid-section. Your posterior includes the latissimus dorsi, your sides involve the quadratus lumborm, the interaction of your glutes provides stability, and the pelvic floor descending and ascending simultaneously engages the diaphragm.
To say only the abs work in conjunction with proper functional core exercises is a misnomer. There are tons of ways to work your abs, but the following exercises will shine light on how to train your core in a better fashion.
In the early years of fitness, there were Crunches, Russian Twists and various flexion and extension moves, which are still often thought of in relation to training your abs. Next came the wave of "anti-movement" core exercises, more specifically resisting movement in a flexion, extension, or rotation.
All of the above supports the proposition that athletes need to transform their training, especially if they play a dynamic sport that involves planting on one leg before moving.
Although you can train on the ground, stabilizing in an upright position is the ultimate goal for these movements.
Split-Step Cable Lift
- This is an anti-flexion and anti-rotation exercise that doubles as a single-leg stability exercise.
- Performing the "lift" requires specific abdominal musculature to prevent rotation and extension of the lower back.
- The outside/top leg is in hip flexion, and the inside/bottom leg is in hip extension.
- This requires stability of the various hip flexors (iliopsoas, adductor longus/brevis)and hip extensors (glute max, med, min).
Split-Step Cable Chop
- This is an anti-extension and anti-rotation exercise that doubles as a single-leg stability exercise.
- Performing the "chop" requires specific abdominal musculature to prevent rotation and extension of the lower back.
- The outside/top leg is in hip extension, and the inside/bottom leg is in hip flexion.
- This requires stability of the various hip flexors (iliopsoas, adductor longus/brevis) and hip extensors (glute max, med, min).
- This movement pattern reinforces a diagonal and chopping motion, an integral aspect of the shoulders and abdominals, while maintaining a stable lumbo-pelvic-hip platform.
Split-Step Anti-Rotation Press
- While these exercises largely focus on single-leg stability, an element of maintaining anti-rotation will transfer to specific movements in sports.
- The cable machine produces a lateral force vector that requires the abdominals to stabilize with a dissociated pelvis in order to properly function.
The ultimate goal for these exercises is to initiate a transfer of training—whether you want to improve single-leg stability, abdominal stability, or increase hip flexibility (by dissociation of one pelvis to the next).
When you take a step, you must stabilize one hip and move the other. If you are carrying something, you may use one side to carry the load. It's important to make sure your abdominals are in proper functioning order in conjunction with your hips, as they do not function in isolation.
Core movements do not have to be limited to ground-based exercises.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock