Core strength training should be a part of any workout routine. While building a strong core will help you get six pack abs, the core actually plays a much more important role in the overall function of your body. So what are the best core exercises for men and women? They’re exercises that work the abdominals, hips, and back. As you’ll see, most of these core exercises involve keeping your body straight as well.
Importance of Core Strength Training
Your core is a group of muscles centered around the belly and mid/lower back. Aside from helping you stand up straight, core muscles assist in lifting and pushing. These types of motions are a part of being functionally fit; that is being able to perform every day actions. Just as important, core strength helps prevent lower back problems and injuries. Core strength training is important for athletes as well since the core is responsible for generating more powerful movements. A side effect of core strength training is that once you reduce body fat, you’ll have a nice set of six pack abs.
Best Core Exercises
There are quite a few ways to work your core muscles. Here are some of my favorite exercises that will help you get a stronger core.
Plank: in my opinion, the old school yoga plank is still the best way to get a strong core. For a long time, I resisted this exercise thinking it wasn’t adequately difficult. Boy was I wrong! In addition to the traditional straight body forearm plank, there are a number of different plank exercises you can perform.
Side Plank: one notable variation of the plank is the side plank. While the traditional plank will work your middle core muscles, the side plank specifically targets your obliques (your side abdominal muscles).
Pushups: a plank is really just a static hold of a pushup position in many ways. Well, real pushups require and recruit core strength as well. There’s a reason that you’ve always heard about the importance of keeping a straight back when doing pushups and it’s so you work those core muscles.
Ab Wheel: this little piece of equipment will really utilize your ab muscles. Simple but effective!
Hanging Straight Leg Raises: hanging from a pull up bar, you utilize your core muscles to slowly lift and lower your legs. If you can’t do these yet, then you could consider following the progressions outlined in Convict Conditioning.
Back Bridges: another Convict Conditioning exercise, bridges will help you work your back muscles and serve as a way to prevent future injury. If you can get to the point where you’re doing stand-to-stand bridges, you probably won’t need to worry about many future back injuries.
Weightlifting Core Exercises
Bodyweight exercises aren’t the only ways to recruit core muscles. In fact, a number of compound weightlifting exercises can also help you improve core strength.
Standing Shoulder Press: one of my favorite exercises, standing shoulder presses require you to stabilize your core in order to press the weight over your head. I think using a barbell is the most effective way to work the core.
Renegade Rows: this is a challenging movement that requires you to perform one arm dumbbell rows while in a pushup position.
Deadlift: form is critical when performing a deadlift as you could very easily get injured. The idea is to stand up straight while lifting a very heavy weight off the ground. Definitely a full body exercise that requires leg, back, arm, and grip strength.
Front/Goblet Squats: squats while either holding a heavy dumbbell in front of you (goblet squats) or front squats where you hold the barbell at shoulder level both necessitate a strong core to complete the exercise.
Aside from exercising, a very simple way to help stabilize your core is simply to stand up or sit up straight as often as possible. The less you slouch, the tighter your core will become. Vince DelMonte’s free report on Perfect Posture reviews some ways to help you improve your posture.
Core Strength Training
Make core strength training a part of your workout routine. There’s a good chance that you’re already using your core muscles in many of your weight training exercises. You also utilize your core on a regular basis just by performing everyday movements. However, the best core exercises for men and women listed above can really target those muscles centered around your abs and back. This in turn will help prevent injury and probably increase your strength in other areas as well.