When it comes to core training, way too much emphasis is placed on working the abdominals and and not nearly enough on the back, pelvic and diaphragm muscles that are key in developing overall stability and strength.
To simplify: you can do all the sit-ups and crunches you want, but it’s not going to save you from being folded in half in a heavy clean or squat.
As functional athletes midline stability is what we are after, not a six-pack. Why? Because you want to protect your central nervous system (CNS) from injury and be able to safely and powerfully move large loads. And to do that you need to make your core work much more functional.
Think about it. Done properly, you are working your midline every time you squat, press or deadlift and keep that neutral spine.
Similarly, when you handstand, pull-up or push-up, you should be in a midline-strengthening hollow body position. (I don’t care what style of kip you use, the midline shouldn’t be sacrificed.)
The best way to work that core musculature (which encompasses a whole lot more than the abs you flex at the beach) is to engage those areas across multiple planes to challenge stability, balance and dynamic neuromuscular control.
And, yes, assuming your nutrition is in check, these moves will also make you look better in your bathing suit.
But, what exactly should you be doing? And how to do it? When?
Below are some sample workouts, including one from the upcoming Active Life RX Thickpack program, which is 30 days of programmed midline stability work starting July 4th. (As an Athlete Daily reader, you can get half-off the program by using the code “daily”.) You can get another sneak peek here.
No matter what you decide, these should be performed after your lifting is done. You don’t want to crush your midline and then try to move heavy loads. They’re also great to use on skill/conditioning days.
4 Rounds (ActiveLife Thickpack program)
Front Rack Hold: 30 seconds @ 85% 1 rep max Front Squat
1 Arm Farmer Carry: 30 meters Right Arm, go heavy
1 Arm Farmer Carry: 30 meters Left Arm, go heavy
*Holds can be done with a stone, sandbag or barbell, as long as it’s held up high on your chest.
Accumulate 2 minutes (in as few sets as possible) of:
Air squat (below parallel)
Reverse Hyper (or superman)
3 sets of each (can superset if you like)
10-15 reps hanging leg raises
10-15 reps landmine rotations (try to come as close to failure as possible)
20 single arm Russian kettle bell swings (heavy)
Other great movements: Barbell roll outs, weighted plate Russian twins, lateral v-ups, plank to pushup (really any kind of plank variation to build up anti-extension), single leg front rack step-ups.
All pictures: Shaun Cleary (with permission from Active Life RX.)