What’s the best exercise to strengthen my core? As a health and fitness professional with over a decade of experience, I’ve been asked this question more times than I care to remember. Interestingly enough, if I’d been asked this question 10 years ago, my answer would be drastically different to what it is today.
Historically, we exercised the core in much the same way we exercised the rest of the body; we identified the movements available to us and used movement-based exercises to strengthen them. Spinal flexion, spinal extension, spinal rotation, and spinal lateral flexion exercises such as Sit-Ups, Supermans, Russian Twists, and Side-Bends respectively, were commonly prescribed as part of a well-rounded core workout. But were these exercises doing more harm than good?
As the field of Exercise and Movement Science evolved, we’ve found the typically prescribed movement-based exercises were not specific to the core’s day-to-day functioning; in fact, they were the complete opposite of what this area of the body actually needed.
The job of the core is to provide a stable foundation upon which the arms and legs can move, therefore, to train it with movement-based drills is not going to improve its functioning. In theory, a program specific to core strengthening would include exercises focused on reactive stability that challenge the spine to remain still while the arms and/or legs are moving:
Hip Bridge with Leg March
– Lay flat on your back and perform a hip bridge. While holding the bridge position you will slowly lift one leg off of the ground while maintaining a neutral pelvis (don’t let your hips move!) Then lower the leg back down and perform the same thing on the other side.
– One of my favorite drills for anyone. There are so many progressions and regressions to this drill, I’ll start with the most basic form. Lie flat on your flat, your feet will be off the ground with your knee’s bent and hands will be in the air. You will press your lower back into the ground and slowly tap your foot to the ground. Return it back to your starting position and repeat with the other foot.
Eric Claycomb was a manager and elite fitness professional at Equinox for over 5 years and currently runs an elite fitness program “Pyramid Fitness”. He holds a B.S. in Exercise Science and many top-level certifications including Functional Movement Systems and Precision Nutrition. For questions about kick-starting your Spring workout, please contact Eric Claycomb at PyramidFitnessLLC@gmail.com or 814-285-7135.