Having a strong core is essential to improving overall movement patterns, increasing overall strength, and protecting your lower back from injuries. Crunches, sit ups, and planks all have their place in workouts to help strengthen the abdominal muscles, but focusing on movements that strengthen the entire core (a complex series of muscles that include everything but your arms and legs) versus just the abdominals, will make your body stronger overall. Check out these three must-try exercises for a strong core!
The windmill position mimics the triangle yoga pose and allows you to load the body in order to strengthen the core muscles.
Begin by standing with your feet about shoulder width apart and toes pointing forward. Kick your heels 45 degrees off to the right side. Raise your right arm up in the air. You can hold the weight in the raised arm, the arm reaching toward the ground, or both for an added challenge!
Engage your lats and abs and hinge at the hips and sit your weight back into your right leg as you reach toward the ground between your feet with your left arm. Inhale as you reach down toward the ground. Once you feel the fingertips hit the ground, squeeze the glute, oblique, and lat of your right side and exhale as you power back up to your starting position. Repeat this position 3-4 more times, then switch and repeat on the opposite side.
The renegade row takes the plank up to the next level by adding weights in each hand in order to engage the abs and glutes more.
Begin in a plank position either on the knees or on the toes with a weight under each hand (note: this can be done with kettlebells or dumbbells). Engage your abdominals, obliques, and glutes to keep your core totally still and stable, and that slowly pull one weight up off the ground as the arm tracks right alongside the rib cage.
Place the weight gently back on the ground, and then switch and repeat the movement with the opposite arm. Your main goal should be to maintain your plank position and keep your belly button facing down toward the ground the entire time. This will keep your hips from opening up and force your abs and glutes to work hard to maintain the proper position. Repeat 4-5 times per side.
One Arm Suitcase Deadlift
Conventional deadlifts are already great for working the core muscles (abs, glutes, hamstrings and lats all work hard during deadlifts), but the one arm suitcase deadlift kicks up the oblique engagement a notch!
Begin by standing with the feet directly underneath the hip and a kettlebell placed right next to the outside of the right foot. Hinge back and come to the bottom of a standard deadlift position: the back should be arched, the lat muscles should be engaged, and you should be hinging at the hips.
Grab the handle of the kettlebell with the right hand, and stand tall, exhaling as you stand. Your hips, knees and shoulders should all stay in line with each other and the obliques on your left side should be really tense and tight as they work to keep you upright. Inhale and send your hips back to return back to the ground. Repeat 6-8 times on the right side and then switch to the opposite side.
Having visible ab muscles is awesome, but having a strong core that will make you strong overall and keep you from getting injured is even better. Work these three core exercises alone or in a circuit to help increase overall core strength!
Lauren Weiss is a personal trainer and group fitness instructor based out of Long Beach, CA. She specializes in kettlebell training and unconventional workouts and has been working with both types of fitness for over a year. Lauren has her BOLT Kettlebell Sport Certification through the USA Kettlebell League and has expertise working with kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells and several unconventional fitness tools. Lauren received her BA in Journalism and uses her writing expertise to craft thought-provoking articles about trending fitness, health & wellness topics. Follow Lauren on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.
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